Understanding ‘Exempt’ Employees and the Minimum Salary Requirement

what is the lowest salary to be exempt

Federal vs. State Minimum Salary Requirements

Not all employees are entitled to overtime pay. Some roles are considered ‘exempt,’ meaning employers are not legally obligated to pay time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. One crucial factor in determining exempt status is your salary level. This article explains the minimum salary requirements for exempt employees and how they can impact your paycheck.

It’s essential to remember that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) sets the federal minimum salary for exemption. However, several states have their own minimums, often higher than the federal standard. Therefore, it’s crucial to check the specific rules applicable in your location.

More Than Just Salary: Job Duties Matter

While salary is a significant factor, it’s not the only criterion for exemption. Your job duties must also fall under specific classifications, typically within executive, administrative, or professional categories to be exempt. The DOL provides detailed information on these job classifications, and you can find more details on the Department’s website.

Changes in Salary Thresholds

It’s important to stay informed about changes in salary thresholds, as they can be updated periodically. The DOL and your state’s labor department websites are reliable sources for current information.

Current Federal Minimum Salary for Overtime Exemption

As of November 2023, the federal minimum salary for exemption is $684 per week, translating to an annual salary of $35,568.

What Does This Mean for You?

Earning Less than $684/week:

If you earn less than $684 per week, you are likely not exempt and entitled to overtime pay, regardless of your job title.

Earning More than $684/week:

You may be exempt if you earn above the minimum salary threshold; however, your job duties must still meet specific criteria.

Highly Compensated Employees (HCEs)

There’s an exemption for individuals earning very high salaries. Suppose your total annual compensation is at least $107,432 (which must include at least $684 weekly on a salary basis) and you regularly perform at least one exempt duty. In that case, you may qualify as exempt even if your job duties don’t fully align with the usual categories.

Reliable Sources of Information

Here are some reliable sources of information on minimum salary requirements and overtime exemptions:

  • Department of Labor (DOL): https://www.dol.gov/
  • Your State’s Labor Department: (Find your state’s website through DOL or a reliable search engine)
  • Reputable HR Websites: Sites like SHRM (https://www.shrm.org/) often provide up-to-date analysis of labor laws.


This article is for informational purposes only. Labor laws are subject to change, and individual circumstances may vary. It’s crucial to consult a qualified employment lawyer if you need legal advice about your specific situation.