Q: Can a consulting firm employ a consultant as Exempt and hourly, paying them an hourly rate based on billed hours?
A: If you are an exempt employee, that means that your employer does not have to pay you overtime rates (i.e. time and a half for weekly hours over 40) or the minimum wage. In order to classify you as an exempt employee, there is a three-part test that must be passed. One of these tests is that you must be on a salary that pays you more than a specified amount per week. Another of these tests requires a determination of the type of work you are doing. If it is a "white collar" type of work, then this will generally allow the position to be an exempt one.
If you are exempt, you should generally be receiving a salary (i.e. - paid the same amount each week regardless of how much you work). Many employers prefer the salary, since they may be able to get more work out of the employee without having to pay them any more. The payroll is also a little easier to manage and forecast.
This area of employment law is full of complexities. You should seek the counsel of an employment law attorney to get a definite answer that is based on your unique situation.
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