Sometimes, what seems obvious in employment law, actually isn’t. Last week, a Florida federal jury found in favor of a law firm in its former paralegal’s overtime lawsuit against it. The former paralegal, who was a title agent performing real estate transactional work, alleged that she was improperly denied overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employer, a small law firm, alleged that she was exempt from overtime based on the FLSA’s administrative exemption. Under this exemption, an employee who is paid a certain minimum salary, whose primary duty is to perform office work directly related to management or general business operations,  and who exercises “independent discretion and judgment” in the performance of work duties is not entitled to overtime.

FLSA’s Independent Discretion and Judgment Test

At issue was the “independent discretion and judgment” part of the test. After listening to the evidence about the specific job duties the paralegal performed, the jury concluded that the paralegal did exercise independent discretion and judgment, and found her exempt from overtime.

This jury finding is significant because standard wisdom in the employment world, based on the Department of Labor opinions and case law, has been that paralegals are generally considered non-exempt employees entitled to overtime.  What this case demonstrates is that actual job duties, rather than job titles, are what is most important in analyzing entitlement to exemptions under the FLSA. So, just calling your receptionist the “front office supervisor” is not going to suddenly transform that person into an employee exempt from overtime.

HR Law & Solutions Seminar

Please join us at our 28th Annual HR Law & Solution seminar on March 26 at Sanibel Harbour Resort, where we will discuss the tricky area of FLSA exemptions, in addition to a variety of other practical subjects, including:

  • A Day in the Life: Practical Tips for Today’s Employers. Katherine Cook and Sara Qureshi will join me to share pointers and updates on relevant case law, to help find solutions to daily challenges
  • 2020 Litigation Trends and EEOC Updates. Robert Shearman will be joined by Kyle Dudek, and guest panelists Robert Weisberg (Regional Attorney for the Miami District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and Benjamin Yormak (Florida Bar Board Certified Employment Lawyer) who will discuss litigation trends, recent case law and issues employers should expect in 2020 — not only from a management viewpoint but also from the perspective of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and from the plaintiff’s bar.
  • Preparing Today’s Employer for 2020 Workers’ Compensation Claims. David Roos, Spencer Shaw, Russell Whittle, and guest speaker Anna Evans (BKS-Partners) will share common defenses, recent case law and real-world strategies to minimize risk and exposure so employers can be fully prepared to defend claims at every stage.
  • Soar to Success. The keynote speaker is the former United States Army Black Hawk pilot Elizabeth McCormick. She will share professional and personal development secrets for success and the key to boosting your confidence and effectiveness in and outside the workplace. Elizabeth will also share prioritization and delegation strategies so you can soar to a higher level of advancement by helping others take the lead. She will also be available for pictures, autographs and book signings at the conclusion of the event.

Click here to download the seminar brochure.

Click here to register online.

The cost is $65 per person and includes a continental breakfast, plated lunch, valet parking and seminar materials.

Continuing Education

The 28th Annual HR Law & Solutions seminar is approved by SHRM for 4.25 PDC and by HRCI for 4.25 (HR) General continuing education credits.

The course has also been approved by The Florida Bar for 5.0 General CLE or 5.0 Labor and Employment Law Certification Credits.


We are so grateful for the support of our sponsors:

If you have any questions you would like the presenters to address, you may email them ahead of time to Gail Lamarche, the firm’s Director of Marketing and Business Development at

We hope to see you soon.