5 CFR § 551.104 - Definitions.

prev next
§ 551.104 Definitions.

In this part -

Act or FLSA means the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (29 U.S.C. 201et seq.).

Administrative employee means an employee who meets the administrative exemption criteria in § 551.206.

Agency means any instrumentality of the United States Government, or any constituent element thereof acting directly or indirectly as an employer, as this term is defined in section 3(d) of the Act and in this section, but does not include the entities of the United States Government listed in § 551.102(c) for which the Department of Labor administers the Act or § 551.102(d)(1) through (8), whose employees are covered by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, as amended, which makes applicable the rights and protections of the FLSA and assigns certain administrative responsibilities to the Office of Compliance.

Claim means a written allegation regarding a current or former employee concerning the employee's FLSA exemption status determination or entitlement to minimum wage or overtime pay for work performed under the Act. The term claim is used generically in subpart G and includes complaints under the child labor provisions of the Act.

Claim period means the time during which the cause or basis of the claim occurred.

Claimant means any party who files an FLSA claim.

Customarily and regularly means a frequency which must be greater than occasional but which may be less than constant. Tasks or work performed customarily and regularly includes work normally and recurrently performed every workweek. It does not include isolated or one-time tasks.

Directly and closely related means work that is directly and closely related to the performance of exempt work which is also considered exempt work. The phrase directly and closely related means tasks that are related to exempt duties and that contribute to or facilitate performance of exempt work. Directly and closely related work may include typically nonexempt tasks that arise out of and are integral to exempt duties. Those nonexempt tasks must be performed by the exempt employee to perform his or her exempt work. Work directly and closely related to the performance of exempt duties may also include recordkeeping; maintaining various records pertaining to workload or employee performance; monitoring and adjusting machinery; taking notes; using the computer to create documents or presentations; opening the mail for the purpose of reading it and making decisions; and using a photocopier or fax machine. Work which both workers and supervisors are required to perform is considered to be closely related to the primary duty of the position (for example, physical training during tours of duty for firefighting and law enforcement personnel) and is exempt work. Work is notdirectly and closely related if the work is remotely related or completely unrelated to exempt duties. The following examples illustrate the type of work that is and is not normally considered as directly and closely related to exempt work:

(1) Work is closely related to exempt supervisory work when it contributes to the effective supervision of subordinate workers, or the smooth functioning of the unit supervised, or both. A supervisor who spot checks and examines the work of subordinates to determine whether they are performing their duties properly, and whether the product is satisfactory, is performing work which is directly and closely related to managerial and supervisory functions, so long as the checking is distinguishable from the work ordinarily performed by a nonexempt inspector.

(2) Depending upon the nature of an organization, a supervisor who sets up a machine may be engaged in exempt work. In some cases the setup work, or adjustment of the machine for a particular job, is typically performed by the same employees who operate the machine. In such cases, setup work is part of the production operation and is not exempt. In other cases, the setting up of the work is a highly skilled operation which the ordinary production worker typically does not perform. In large plants, non-supervisors may perform such work. However, particularly in small plants, such work may be a regular duty of the executive employee and is directly and closely related to the executive employee's responsibility for the subordinates' work performance and for the adequacy of the final product. In addition, performing setup work that requires special skills typically is not performed by production employees in the occupation, and does not approach the volume that would justify hiring a specially trained employee to perform. Such closely related work may include performing infrequently recurring or one-time tasks which are impractical to delegate, because they would disrupt normal operations or take longer to explain than to perform. Under such circumstances, it is exempt work.

(3) A management analyst may take extensive notes recording the flow of work and materials through an organization; the analyst may personally use a computer to type a report and create a proposed table of organization. Standing alone, or separated from the primary duty, such note-taking and typing would not be exempt. However, because this work is necessary for analyzing the data and making recommendations (which is exempt work), it is directly and closely related to exempt work.

(4) A traffic manager in charge of planning an organization's transportation function, including identifying the most economical and quickest routes for shipping material to and from the activity, contracting for common-carrier and other transportation facilities, negotiating with carriers for adjustments for damages to material, and making the necessary rearrangements resulting from delays, damages or irregularities in transit, is performing exempt work. If the employee also spends part of the day taking telephone orders for local deliveries, such order-taking is a routine function and is not directly and closely related to the exempt work.

(5) An example of work directly and closely related to exempt professional duties is a chemist performing nonexempt tasks such as cleaning a test tube in the middle of an original experiment, even though such tasks can be assigned to laboratory assistants.

(6) A teacher performs work directly and closely related to exempt duties when, while taking students on a field trip, the teacher drives a school van or monitors the students' behavior in a restaurant.

Educational establishment means a nursery school, an elementary or secondary school system, an institution of higher education, other educational institutions, and in certain circumstances, training facilities. The term other educational establishment includes special schools for mentally or physically disabled or gifted children, regardless of any classification of such schools as elementary, secondary, or higher.

Emergency means a temporary condition that poses a direct threat to human life or safety, serious damage to property, or serious disruption to the operations of an activity, as determined by the employing agency.

Employ means to engage a person in an activity that is for the benefit of an agency, including any hours of work that are suffered or permitted.

Employee means a person who is employed -

As a civilian in an Executive agency, as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code;

As a civilian in a military department, as defined in section 102 of title 5, United States Code;

In a nonappropriated fund instrumentality of an Executive agency or a military department;

In a unit of the judicial branch of the Government that has positions in the competitive service; or

In the Government Printing Office.

Employer, as defined in section 3(d) of the Act, means any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee and includes a public agency, but does not include any labor organization (other than when acting as an employer) or anyone acting in the capacity of officer or agent of such labor organization.

Executive employee means an employee who meets the executive exemption criteria in § 551.205.

Exempt area means any foreign country, or any territory under the jurisdiction of the United States, other than the following locations:

A State of the United States;

The District of Columbia;

Puerto Rico;

The U.S. Virgin Islands;

Outer Continental Shelf Lands as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (67 Stat. 462);

American Samoa;

(7) Guam;

(8) Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands;

(9) Midway Atoll;

(10) Wake Island;

(11) Johnston Island; and

(12) Palmyra.

Filed means a claim has been properly submitted by the claimant. The claimant must deliver the claim to the appropriate office within the agency or OPM, whichever is deciding the FLSA claim. The claim must be postmarked or date-stamped in order to establish the time of delivery.

FLSA exempt means not covered by the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Act.

FLSA exemption status means an employee's designation as either FLSA exempt or FLSA nonexempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Act.

FLSA nonexempt means covered by the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Act.

FLSA overtime pay means overtime pay under this part.

FLSA pay claim means a claim concerning an employee's entitlement to minimum wage or overtime pay for work performed under the Act.

Formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices means perform work that involves management policies or operating practices which range from specific objectives and practices of a small field office to broad national goals expressed in statutes or Executive orders. Employees performing such work make policy decisions or participate indirectly through developing or recommending proposals that are acted on by others. The work of employees who significantly affect the execution of management policies involves obtaining compliance with such policies by other individuals or organizations, within or outside of the Federal Government, or making significant determinations furthering the operation of programs and accomplishment of program objectives. Administrative employees engaged in such work typically perform one or more phases of program management (that is, planning, developing, promoting, coordinating, controlling, or evaluating operating programs of the employing organization or of other organizations subject to regulation or other controls).

Hours of work means all time spent by an employee performing an activity for the benefit of an agency and under the control or direction of the agency. Hours of work are creditable for the purpose of determining overtime pay under subpart D of this part. Section 551.401 of subpart D further explains this term. However, whether time is credited as hours of work is determined by considering many factors, such as the rules in subparts D and E of this part, provisions of law, Comptroller General decisions, OPM decisions and policy guidance, agency policy, negotiated agreements, the rules in part 550 of this chapter (for hours of work for travel), and the rules in part 410 of this chapter (for hours of work for training).

Management means performing activities such as interviewing, selecting, and training of employees; setting and adjusting their rates of pay and hours of work; directing the work of employees; maintaining production or financial records for use in supervision or control; appraising employees' productivity and efficiency for the purpose of recommending promotions or other changes in status; handling employee complaints and grievances; disciplining employees; planning the work; determining the techniques to be used; apportioning the work among the employees; determining the type of materials, supplies, machinery, equipment, or tools to be used or merchandise to be bought, stocked and sold; controlling the flow and distribution of materials or merchandise and supplies; providing for the safety and security of the employees or the property; planning and controlling the budget; and monitoring or implementing legal compliance measures.

Nonexempt area means any of the following locations:

A State of the United States;

The District of Columbia;

Puerto Rico;

The U.S. Virgin Islands;

Outer Continental Shelf Lands as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (67 Stat. 462);

American Samoa;


Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands;

Midway Atoll;

Wake Island;

Johnston Island; and


Official position means the position to which the employee is officially assigned by means of a personnel action authorized by the agency.

Perform work in connection with an emergency means perform work that is directly related to resolving or coping with an emergency, or its immediate aftermath, as determined by the employing agency.

Preserve the claim period means establish the period of possible entitlement to back pay by filing a written claim. The date the agency or OPM receives the claim preserves the claim period and is the date that determines the period of possible entitlement to back pay.

Primary duty typically means the duty that constitutes the major part (over 50 percent) of an employee's work. A duty constituting less than 50 percent of an employee's work (alternative primary duty) may be credited as the primary duty for exemption purposes provided that duty:

Constitutes a substantial, regular part of the work assigned and performed;

Is the reason for the existence of the position; and

Is clearly exempt work in terms of the basic nature of the work, the frequency with which the employee must exercise discretion and independent judgment as discussed in § 551.206, and the significance of the decisions made.

Professional employee means an employee who meets the professional exemption criteria in § 551.207.

Reckless disregard of the requirements of the Act means failure to make adequate inquiry into whether conduct is in compliance with the Act.

Recognized organizational unit means an established and defined organizational entity which has regularly assigned employees and for which a supervisor is responsible for planning and accomplishing a continuing workload. This distinguishes supervisors from leaders of temporary groups formed to perform assignments of limited duration.

The term recognized organizational unit is intended to distinguish between a mere collection of employees assigned from time to time to a specific job or series of jobs and a unit with permanent status and function. A recognized organizational unit must have a permanent status and a continuing function. For example, a large human resources department might have subdivisions for labor relations, pensions and other benefits, equal employment opportunity, and recruitment and placement, each of which has a permanent status and function.

A recognized organizational unit may move from place to place. The mere fact that the employee works in more than one location does not invalidate the exemption if other factors show that the employee is actually in charge of a recognized organizational unit with a continuing function in the organization.

Continuity of the same subordinates is not essential to the existence of a recognized organizational unit with a continuing function. An otherwise exempt employee will not lose the exemption merely because the employee draws and supervises workers from a pool or supervises a team of workers drawn from other recognized organizational units, if other factors are present that indicate the employee is in charge of a recognized organizational unit with a continuing function.

Statute of limitations means the time frame within which an FLSA pay claim must be filed, starting from the date the right accrued. All FLSA pay claims filed on or after June 30, 1994, are subject to a 2-year statute of limitations, except in cases of willful violation where the statute of limitations is 3 years.

Suffered or permitted work means any work performed by an employee for the benefit of an agency, whether requested or not, provided the employee's supervisor knows or has reason to believe that the work is being performed and has an opportunity to prevent the work from being performed.

Title 5 overtime pay, for the purpose of § 551.211, means overtime pay under part 550 of this chapter.

Trainee means a person who does not meet the definition of “employee” in this section and who is assigned or attached to a Federal activity primarily for training. A person who attends a training program under the following conditions is considered a trainee and is not a Federal employee for purposes of the Act:

The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the Federal activity, is similar to that given in a vocational school or other institution of learning;

The training is for the benefit of the individual;

The trainee does not displace regular employees, but is supervised by them;

The Federal activity which provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainee; on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

The trainee is not necessarily entitled to a job with the Federal activity at the completion of the training period; and

The agency and the trainee understand that the trainee is not entitled to the payment of wages from the agency for the time spent in training.

Two or more other employees means the equivalent of two or more full-time employees. For the purpose of this definition, an employee is equal to a full-time equivalent (FTE). For example, one full-time and two half-time employees are equivalent to two full-time employees.

Volunteer means a person who does not meet the definition of employee in this section and who volunteers or donates his or her service, the primary benefit of which accrues to the performer of the service or to someone other than the agency. Under such circumstances there is neither an expressed nor an implied compensation agreement. Services performed by such a volunteer include personal services that, if left unperformed, would not necessitate the assignment of an employee to perform them.

Willful violation means a violation in circumstances where the agency knew that its conduct was prohibited by the Act or showed reckless disregard of the requirements of the Act. All of the facts and circumstances surrounding the violation are taken into account in determining whether a violation was willful.

Workday means the period between the commencement of the principal activities that an employee is engaged to perform on a given day and the cessation of the principal activities for that day. The term is further explained in § 551.411.

Worktime, for the purpose of determining FLSA exemption status, means time spent actually performing work. This excludes periods of time during which an employee performs no work, such as standby time, sleep time, meal periods, and paid leave.

Worktime in a representative workweek means the average worktime over a period long enough to even out normal fluctuations in workloads and is representative of the job as a whole.

Workweek means a fixed and recurring period of 168 hours - seven consecutive 24-hour periods. It need not coincide with the calendar week but may begin on any day and at any hour of a day. For employees subject to part 610 of this chapter, the workweek must be the same as the administrative workweek defined in § 610.102 of this chapter.

Workweek basis means the unit of time used as the basis for applying overtime standards under the Act and, for employees under flexible or compressed work schedules, under 5 U.S.C. 6121(6) or (7). The Act takes a single workweek as its standard (except for employees engaged in fire protection or law enforcement activities under section 7(k) of the Act) and does not permit the averaging of hours over two or more weeks, except for employees engaged in fire protection or law enforcement activities under section 7(k) of the Act.