Editor’s note: The best insight on HR dilemmas is provided by solving real-life situations that IT pros face every day, and that’s what our HR Handbook column is all about. TechRepublic columnist Wade Mitchell welcomes your e-mail questions concerning human resources issues. Although all of the messages are read, he reserves his responses for those that will likely benefit the most members.

Dilemma: Defining job classification
I need guidance on proper exempt vs. nonexempt classification for the newly created position of Team Leader. At present, they are heavily involved in daily production and team development.


First of all, based on the description you gave, I am confident that your “team leader” staff is not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The “team leader” description provided fits the criteria for an “administrator,” making the position exempt under the FLSA.

While there are many requirements to meet, the short test for determining whether a job classifies as an “administrator” is to see if it fits the FLSA’s definition of an (exempt) administrator: “Administrators who are paid at least $250 a week and whose primary duty is office or nonmanual work which relates to their employer’s management policies or general business operations are exempt.” For more information, check out this reference site.

If your company has a legal department or access to counsel, it’s always wise to verify your interpretation of the FLSA guidelines before proceeding so that any potential legal hazards will be brought to your attention.

The U.S. Department of Labor provides excellent guidelines for answering these types of questions as they come up in the future. Certainly consult the DOL as a starting point, but again, with new job descriptions, you should always check with an attorney before putting your ideas into practice. Good luck with the new positions.

Dilemma: Negotiating for more vacation time
What is the best way to negotiate more than the standard two weeks’ vacation per year?


The easy part about negotiating for more vacation is that, unlike most other portions of a compensation package, vacation time is very inexpensive to the employer, which can work to your advantage. From the start, you want to create a win-win situation. Remember the following points when you are at the bargaining table:

  • Think of the total package. Vacation time is likely just a portion of your overall compensation package. If you are prepared to sacrifice other, more expensive items in your overall package to get that extra time off, you have an excellent source of leverage.
  • Ask for more than you really want. You don’t have to ask for the moon, but asking for 5 to10 percent more than you want gives you the ability to negotiate in good faith without missing out on what you want. If you want three weeks of vacation, ask for a little more than that.
  • Think in terms of hours, not weeks. Most employees think of vacation time in terms of weeks. You might appear greedy when asking for another full week’s vacation if you are getting two to begin with. The truth is, usually you earn your vacation time in hourly or daily increments. Remembering this enables you to work in units smaller than one week, giving you more negotiating flexibility. Review how your vacation is accrued in the employee handbook and bring that information to the negotiating table.
  • Use salary to negotiate time off. If you want to negotiate an additional week’s vacation (40 hours), decide how many dollars in pay increase you want next year and add 10 percent on top of that amount. When it is time to negotiate for that extra vacation, you can sacrifice that extra 10 percent in exchange for the time off. And the best part is, you still end up with the salary you wanted in the first place.

Let’s tie all this together. When it is time to review your compensation, arrive with the information you need to negotiate effectively. Know what you intend to ask for, what you are prepared to sacrifice, and what you will stand firm on. Be prepared to sacrifice portions of expensive (to your employer) items, such as salary, retirement, or profit sharing to leverage cheaper items that are important to you, such as vacation time. Negotiate in hours, not weeks. Ask for 5 to 10 percent more than you want so you can come down a little and still give your boss the feeling that you are making sacrifices. Good luck.

Dealing with a dilemma?

Have a delicate management or HR issue you’re not sure how to handle? E-mail it to us, and Wade Mitchell may answer it in the HR Handbook.