Directly and Closely Related – FLSA Exemptions

Exempt work under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) includes tasks that are “directly and closely related” to the exempt work. These directly and closely related tasks are typically necessary to facilitate the performance of exempt work. The tasks may be physical and/or menial, such as recordkeeping; monitoring and maintaining machinery; taking notes; creating documents or presentations; opening mail; making copies; and sending faxes. 29 CFR 541.702; 29 CFR 541.703(a).

Occasional tasks

Like directly and closely related work, otherwise nonexempt tasks that are occasional and infrequently reoccur may be considered exempt work if nonexempt employees cannot practicably perform them. Several factors should be considered when determining whether such work is exempt work, including:

  • whether any of the exempt employee’s subordinates perform the same work;
  • whether the work could reasonably be delegated to a nonexempt employee;
  • whether the exempt employee performs the task frequently or occasionally; and
  • whether there is an industry practice for the exempt employee to perform the task.

29 CFR 541.707.

The regulations provide the following examples of work that is and is not directly and closely related to exempt work:

  • Keeping time, production or sales records for subordinates is work directly and closely related to an exempt executive’s function of managing a department and supervising employees.
  • The distribution of materials, merchandise or supplies to maintain control of the flow of and expenditures for such items is directly and closely related to the performance of exempt duties.
  • A supervisor who spot checks and examines the work of subordinates to determine whether they are performing their duties properly, and whether the product is satisfactory, is performing work which is directly and closely related to managerial and supervisory functions, so long as the checking is distinguishable from the work ordinarily performed by a nonexempt inspector.
  • A supervisor who sets up a machine may be engaged in exempt work, depending upon the nature of the industry and the operation. In some cases the setup work, or adjustment of the machine for a particular job, is typically performed by the same employees who operate the machine. Such setup work is part of the production operation and is not exempt. In other cases, the setting up of the work is a highly skilled operation which the ordinary production worker or machine tender typically does not perform. In large plants, non-supervisors may perform such work. However, particularly in small plants, such work may be a regular duty of the executive and is directly and closely related to the executive’s responsibility for the work performance of subordinates and for the adequacy of the final product. Under such circumstances, it is exempt work.
  • A department manager in a retail or service establishment who walks about the sales floor observing the work of sales personnel under the employee’s supervision to determine the effectiveness of their sales techniques, checks on the quality of customer service being given, or observes customer preferences is performing work which is directly and closely related to managerial and supervisory functions.
  • A business consultant may take extensive notes recording the flow of work and materials through the office or plant of the client; after returning to the office of the employer, the consultant may personally use the computer to type a report and create a proposed table of organization. Standing alone, or separated from the primary duty, such note-taking and typing would be routine in nature. However, because this work is necessary for analyzing the data and making recommendations, the work is directly and closely related to exempt work. While it is possible to assign note-taking and typing to nonexempt employees, and in fact it is frequently the practice to do so, delegating such routine tasks is not required as a condition of exemption.
  • A credit manager who makes and administers the credit policy of the employer, establishes credit limits for customers, authorizes the shipment of orders on credit, and makes decisions on whether to exceed credit limits would be performing work exempt under § 541.200. Work that is directly and closely related to these exempt duties may include checking the status of accounts to determine whether the credit limit would be exceeded by the shipment of a new order, removing credit reports from the files for analysis, and writing letters giving credit data and experience to other employers or credit agencies.
  • A traffic manager in charge of planning a company’s transportation, including the most economical and quickest routes for shipping merchandise to and from the plant, contracting for common-carrier and other transportation facilities, negotiating with carriers for adjustments for damages to merchandise, and making the necessary rearrangements resulting from delays, damages or irregularities in transit, is performing exempt work. If the employee also spends part of the day taking telephone orders for local deliveries, such order-taking is a routine function and is not directly and closely related to the exempt work.
  • An example of work directly and closely related to exempt professional duties is a chemist performing menial tasks such as cleaning a test tube in the middle of an original experiment, even though such menial tasks can be assigned to laboratory assistants.
  • A teacher performs work directly and closely related to exempt duties when, while taking students on a field trip, the teacher drives a school van or monitors the students’ behavior in a restaurant.

29 CFR 541.703(b).

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