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Understanding Colorado’s Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Classifications

Oct 02, 2023

Employee classification is a crucial aspect of ensuring fair labor practices and compliance with state and federal laws. In the state of Colorado, employers must understand the distinctions between exempt and non-exempt employees to properly manage work hours, breaks, overtime, compensation, benefits, and FLSA compliance. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the state's exempt vs. non-exempt classifications to help employers navigate these important distinctions.

1. Scheduled Work Time:
Exempt employees are not required to track their work hours and are expected to work as many hours as necessary to complete their job duties efficiently. On the other hand, non-exempt employees typically have set schedules or specific hours they are required to work, usually within a standard workweek of 40 hours.

2. Breaks:
Exempt employees have more flexibility regarding breaks as they are not entitled to mandatory rest or meal breaks under federal law (although some state laws may require them). Meanwhile, non-exempt employees in Colorado are legally entitled to rest or meal breaks. The number of required paid rest periods depends on the length of the work time, as outlined by state regulations.

3. Overtime:
Exempt employees are ineligible for overtime pay, regardless of the number of hours worked beyond their regular workweek. They are usually paid a salary or fixed amount without additional compensation for additional hours. In contrast, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.

4. Classification Criteria:
Exempt employees are categorized based on job responsibilities, such as executive, professional, administrative, computer-related, or outside sales duties. Meeting specific criteria, including earning a minimum salary, is necessary to qualify for exempt status in Colorado. The minimum salary requirements are set by the state, and employers must ensure compliance with the defined thresholds.

Non-exempt employees are assumed to be entitled to overtime pay unless they meet the criteria for exempt classification. Hourly workers who do not meet the exemption criteria are generally considered non-exempt employees.

5. Compensation Structures:
Exempt employees are often paid a salary, receiving a fixed amount regardless of the number of hours worked. Their compensation is based on their job responsibilities rather than the specific time spent working. On the other hand, non-exempt employees are typically paid an hourly rate, earning wages based on the actual hours worked. They are eligible for overtime pay and may have their compensation impacted by hours worked beyond their regular schedule.

6. Impact on Benefits:
Exempt employees usually receive the same benefits package as other employees, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and vacation time, based on company policies. Non-exempt employees also receive similar benefits, but eligibility might be based on the number of hours worked or the duration of employment. Consistency and fairness in benefit offerings across all employee classifications are essential.

7. FLSA Compliance:
Both exempt and non-exempt classifications must adhere to the regulations outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Accurate classification, proper record-keeping of work hours, and appropriate payment for overtime, if applicable, are crucial for compliance. Failure to comply with FLSA regulations can have serious legal and financial consequences for employers.

Understanding the differences between exempt and non-exempt classifications is vital for employers in Colorado to ensure fair labor practices, proper compensation, and compliance with state and federal laws. By adhering to the regulations governing scheduled work time, breaks, overtime, compensation structures, benefits, and FLSA compliance, employers can establish a work environment that fosters employee welfare and legal compliance.


Understanding how to properly apply classifications can be quite complex, schedule a 30-minute consult with our team to help you better understand how this applies to your business. 

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