Chances are you have never thought of Lady Gaga as an employer, but she is. Like you, she employs administrative assistants and, perhaps like you, she did not pay one properly per the terms of The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). You however, differ from the pop star because you will continue to read this article and learn how to not end up being sued by a former administrative assistant for $400,000.
A common practice in the entertainment industry is to hire personal assistants, which Gaga did, paying one $75,000 per year. The two had a falling out and the assistant filed a claim against Gaga’s corporation for unpaid overtime. Gaga’s response was that her former assistant knew she would be paid $75,000 for working “24/7” and that she knew she was not entitled to overtime.
What Gaga did not know (and you now do) is that employees are entitled to overtime as a matter of law unless they fit within specific overtime exemption categories established by the FLSA. For purposes of the Act, a personal assistant arguably falls under the administrative assistant exemption from overtime.
Per the FLSA, to qualify for an exemption for overtime, the singer needed to show that her former assistant was paid on a salary basis at least $455 per week, that her primary duty included performing office/non-manual labor directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers, and that she exercised discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. Though Gaga paid her assistant enough, the nature and scope of her duties were the problems.
In her complaint and deposition, the assistant described her primary duties as whatever Gaga told her to do. Being the case, she is entitled to overtime for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek. Why? Because the duties she described, like those of your administrative assistants, do not require the degree of discretion and independent judgment sufficient to meet the administrative overtime exemption.
How many hours did the assistant work? It is your obligation to track the hours of a non-exempt employee.
Article by Loren K. Allison, attorney at law
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