Professional Employee Exemption

Has your employer denied you overtime pay on the basis that you are an professional employee? Both federal and state law require employers to pay “non-exempt” employees a minimum wage and overtime pay. But federal and state law do not protect every employee; some employees are explicitly exempt. So-called exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. Although there are several categories of exempt employees, employers commonly misuse the professional employee exemption to withhold overtime pay from employees.

Who is a Professional Employee?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is the federal law that governs the minimum wage and overtime pay. It is important to note that an exemption is not based on the employee’s job title. An employer cannot exempt an employee just by calling that employee a professional. Instead, the exemption is based on the employee’s substantive responsibilities and pay. There are several professional employee exemptions.

In order to fall under the “learned professional employee” exemption, an employee must meet each of the following requirements:

  • the employee must earn a salary or fee of no less than $455 per week;
  • the employee’s primary duty must include work that requires advanced knowledge, which means work that is primarily intellectual and requires independent judgment;
  • the advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning, which includes but is not limited to, law, medicine, theology, teaching, and other fields requiring specialized knowledge;
  • the advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a course of academic training, generally, but not always an advanced degree.

In order to fall under the “creative professional exemption,” an employee must meet each of the following requirements:

  • the employee must earn a salary or fee of no less than $455;
  • the employee’s primary duty must include work that requires originality in a recognized artistic or creative field.

The California Labor Code’s definition of a professional is similar, except California generally requires professionals to have both an advanced degree and a license.

Employees Often Misclassify Employees as Professionals

Although the professional exemption excludes a wide class of workers, there are a multitude of exceptions under both California and federal law. And employers often ignore the exceptions. Employers, for example, misclassify any college educated worker as a professional, even if that worker’s primary duties do not require advanced knowledge.

A Misclassification Lawyer Can Help

It is, unfortunately, very common for an employer to misclassify an employee as an exempt professional. If you suspect that your employer has misclassified you as exempt and denied you overtime pay, you do not have to forfeit your rights. The Orange County misclassification lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles can help you recover the overtime pay you deserve. Call today at 714-937-2020 for a free case evaluation