Learned Professional Employee Exemption – FLSA


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempts from its minimum wage and overtime standards employees who qualify as professional employees. 29 USC 213(a)(1). The professional employee exemption is made up of three different categories:

29 CFR 541.300-304


Learned Professional Employee Exemption – FLSA

To qualify as a learned professional for purposes of the FLSA minimum wage and overtime exemption, the employee must meet the following criteria:

  • Earn not less than $455 per week (Beginning December 1, 2016, employers will be required to pay employees qualifying for this exemption not less than $913 per week; starting on January 1, 2020, this minimum earnings amount will change every three years according to a formula set forth in federal regulation changes issued on May 17, 2016.);
  • be compensated on a salary or fee basis; and
  • have the primary duty of performing work that requires advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning that is customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

29 CFR 541.300; 29 CFR 541.301(a)


Definitions




Work Requiring Advanced Knowledge

Work requiring advanced knowledge is predominantly intellectual in nature and requires that the employee consistently exercise discretion and judgment. It is distinguished from work that is routine, manual, mechanical, or physical and typically involves analyzing, interpreting, and making deductions based on varying facts and circumstances. 29 CFR 541.301(b)



Fields of Science or Learning

Fields of science or learning typically have a recognized professional status and included, amongst others, professional such as law, medicine, theology, accounting, actuarial computation, engineering, architecture, teaching, and physical, chemical, and biological sciences. 29 CFR 541.301(c)



Customarily Acquired by a Prolonged Course of Specialized Intellectual Instruction

Employees with advanced academic degrees typically meet this requirement. However, an advanced degree is not necessarily required. Employees who have obtained advanced knowledge through a combination of work experience and intellectual instruction may qualify. It does not apply to occupations that may be performed with only general academic knowledge or with knowledge acquired through an apprenticeship. 29 CFR 541.301(d)



Practice of Law and Medicine

Employees engaged in the practice of law or medicine or any of their branches are specifically identified as exempt professional employees. It also includes employees with academic degrees for the general practice of medicine and are working in an internship or resident program. 29 CFR 541.304.

The exemption for medical professionals applies to practitioners licensed and practicing medicine or any of the medical specialties practiced by physicians or practitioners. This includes general practitioners and specialists, osteopathic physicians (doctors of osteopathy), podiatrists, dentists (doctors of dental medicine), and optometrists (doctors of optometry or bachelors of science in optometry).
29 CFR 541.304.


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