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:
Learned Professional Exemption Test
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 $684 per week on a salary or fee basis (except for $455 in Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and $380 for Samoa);
- 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.
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.