The “Professional” Exemption Under Federal Overtime Law

Another major overtime exemption is the “professional” exemption.  Remember that “exempt” employees are not entitled to overtime, ever, no matter how many hours they work.   So what are the requirements for an exempt professional employee?

As with most of the federal overtime exemptions, any employee, regardless of job title or duties, must generally be paid on a salary or flat fee basis to be eligible for the administrative exemption.  Hourly workers are almost never within the scope of the overtime exemptions.

There are two categories of “professional” employees.  The first is “learned professionals,” or people whose occupation requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.  The second category encompasses “creative professionals,” or people whose jobs requireinvention, imagination, originality, or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

In general, to qualify for the learned professional exemption an employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Courts look at three main considerations in this regard: (1) The employee must perform work requiring advanced knowledge;(2) The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and(3) The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

To qualify for the creative professional exemption, an employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work. The exemption does not apply to work which can be produced by a person with general manual or intellectual ability and training.

Overtime cases require legal analysis of federal statutes, U.S. Department of Labor regulations, and court decisions.  I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.

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