Q. Should I look at paying my computer professionals hourly?

A. Yes, especially if you think $24 million is a lot of money. A $24 million overtime pay settlement was tentatively approved on April 21, 2005 for approximately 30,000 employees at Computer Sciences Corporation (“CSC”). Giannetto v. Computer Sciences Corporation, 03-CV-8201 (C.D. Cal.). It appears the plaintiffs were employees who generally provided off-site service to CSC’s clients. It also appears that this involved maintaining and upgrading CSC’s customers’ software systems with patches designed and engineered by other employees.

CSC is not alone. Many companies commonly believe their computer field employees are exempt from overtime regulations, but companies need to be beware. Companies should understand that for an employee to be exempt, “[t]he regulations provide that an employee’s primary duty must require ‘theoretical and practical application of highly-specialized knowledge in computer systems analysis, programming, and software engineering’ not merely ‘highly-specialized knowledge of computers and software.’ This is an important difference. The former is a narrower class of jobs that requires a different level of knowledge and training than the latter.” Martin v. Indiana Michigan Power Co., 381 F. 3d 574, 580 (2004).

The lesson from Martin and Giannetto: Your employee is not exempt from overtime just because that employee is a computer professional.