Lawyers – are you paying your legal assistants overtime?
Legal assistants – are you getting time and one-half when you work over forty hours?
Individuals who are paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, and other non-lawyer positions that are often paid on a “salary” basis should get paid overtime when they work over 40 hours in one week. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as the Maryland wage and hour laws and the DC wage and hour laws, these positions are not “exempt,” meaning, if an individual works more than 40 hours in a week, they must be paid one and one-half times their regular rate.
The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is often called on to issue opinion letters addressing whether a certain job is “exempt” from the overtime protections of the FLSA. In response to numerous inquiries over the years, the Department has consistently stated that paralegals/legal assistants are not exempt under either the “professional” or “administrative” exemptions to the FLSA.
The position descriptions that the DOL held were not exempt from receiving overtime include legal assistants whose job requires some advanced education, including a two year’s paralegal certificate; legal assistants who have a four-year college degree and work under an attorney’s supervision drafting documents; and, a highly experienced paralegal who often meets with clients, analyzes facts and identifies relevant legal issues in a case.
What does this mean to you? If you are a legal assistant and work 40 hours, you may be being eligible for non-exempt overtime pay and need to consult with an attorney to ensure you are paid correct and recover wages owed to you. If you are an attorney, you may need to consult with an experienced employment law attorney and correct procedures which run afoul of the FLSA.