Salary vs. hourly pay

Salary vs. hourly pay

The fact that a member of your team holds a degree or has "supervisor" in his or her title doesn't guarantee that you can pay a straight salary—or that the employee is exempt from overtime pay.
Jul 02, 2008

The fact that a member of your team holds a degree or has "supervisor" in his or her title doesn't guarantee that you can pay a straight salary—or that the employee is exempt from overtime pay.

According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, businesses must pay employees who perform work involving physical skill and repetitive manual operations on an hourly basis—and cover their overtime. Only workers in the following categories are exempt and therefore eligible for salaried pay (not less than $455 per week):

  • executive
  • administrative
  • professional
  • computer
  • outside sales.

In a veterinary practice, an executive would primarily run the business and not be directly involved in providing medical care. This executive would also direct the work of at least two other full-time employees and have the authority to hire and fire staff members. A full-time practice manager with no medical or receptionist duties could fit into this category.

Veterinarians fit nicely into the professional exemption category and are routinely paid on a salaried basis. Other staff members—regardless of their licensure status—probably don't qualify for the professional exemption.

Click to enlarge.
In fact, the Department of Labor has specifically ruled that veterinary technicians aren't exempt. The department's ruling states that many people filling veterinary technician positions have not attained the status of "learned profession, customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction."

Staff members such as bookkeepers or human resource directors can qualify for the administrative exemption if:

  • their duties are clerical
  • they don't perform any "manual work" related to the practice of medicine, and
  • their primary duties involve using discretion and independent judgment on important matters.

In general, using independent judgment involves comparing and evaluating options and then making a decision that becomes "policy." This also implies that the employee has the authority to make independent choices. Working supervisors, such as lead receptionists or technicians, don't qualify for the administrative exemption if they perform manual labor duties that would normally be associated with that position.

Philip Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with Veterinary Practice Consultants in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to

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