The Learned Professional Exemption Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
An employee who is employed as a “learned professional” is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). To qualify for the FLSA’s creative professional exemption, an employee must meet the following requirements:
- The employee must be compensated on a salary basis or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week; and
- The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.
29 C.F.R. § 541.300. The phrase “work requiring advanced knowledge” means work which is predominantly intellectual in character, and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, as distinguished from performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.301(b).
The learned professional exemption generally applies to employees engaged in the traditional professions of law, medicine, theology, accounting, actuarial computation, engineering, architecture, teaching, various types of physical, chemical and biological sciences, pharmacy, and other similar occupations that have a recognized professional status. It does not apply to the mechanical arts or skilled trades where in some instances the knowledge is of a fairly advanced type, but is not in a field of science or learning. 29 C.F.R. § 541.301(c).
Minnesota law has a similar exemption from its minimum wage and overtime requirements for learned professional employees. Minn. Stat. § 177.23, Subd. 7(6). To qualify for the learned professional exemption under Minnesota law, an employee must satisfy at least one of two tests. Under the first test, the employee must:
- Receive at least $250 per week in salary or fee;
- Either: (i) perform work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning; or (ii) perform work as a teaching in the activity of imparting knowledge; and
- Consistently exercise discretion and judgment.
Under the second test, the employee must:
- Receive at least $170 per week in salary or fee;
- Either: (i) perform work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of learning customarily acquired by prolonged specialized intellectual study, not a general academic education, an apprenticeship, or training in routine mental or physical processes; or (ii) be a certified teacher working as such or recognized as such in the school system where the person works;
- Consistently exercise judgment and discretion;
- Perform predominantly intellectual work so varied that the output cannot be standardized by time necessary for accomplishment; and
- Devote less than 20 percent of the hours worked to activities not essential to the person’s professional work.