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Professional Employee Exemption

Professional employees are typically those in licensed careers, like attorneys, doctors, accountants or architects. What’s more, they must mean other criteria, like earning no less than double California’s minimum wage.

Per the California Department of Industrial Relations, when referencing the professional exemption of overtime laws, a “professional employee” is defined as someone meeting ALL of the below requirements:

  • Who is licensed or certified by the State of California and is primarily engaged in the practice of one of the following recognized professions: law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting, or
  • Who is primarily engaged in an occupation commonly recognized as a learned or artistic profession. "Learned or artistic profession" means an employee who is primarily engaged in the performance of:
    • Work requiring knowledge of an advance type in a field or science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study, as distinguished from a general academic education and from an apprenticeship, and from training in the performance of routine mental, manual, or physical processes, or work that is an essential part of or necessarily incident to any of the above work; or
    • Work that is original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor (as opposed to work which can be produced by a person endowed with general manual or intellectual ability and training), and the result of which depends primarily on the invention, imagination, or talent of the employee or work that is an essential part of or necessarily incident to any of the above work; and
    • Whose work is predominantly intellectual and varied in character (as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work) and is of such character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time.
  • Who customarily and regularly exercised discretion an independent judgment in the performance of duties set forth above.
  • Who earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Full-time employment means 40 hours per week as defined in Labor Code Section 515(c).

Regarding the requirement for the exemption to apply that the employee "customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment," this phrase means the comparison and evaluation of possible courses of conduct and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered. The employee must have the authority or power to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision and with respect to matters of significance.

For the learned professions, an advanced academic degree (above the bachelor level) is a standard prerequisite.

For the artistic professions, work in a "recognized field of artistic endeavor" includes such fields as music, writing, the theater, and the plastic and graphic arts.

Are You a Misclassified California Employee? You May Be Owed Back Overtime Pay

Our California employment law experts at Fernandez & Lauby LLP may be able to help you claim back overtime wages that you are owed. Our attorneys are offering a free review of your compensation schedule to determine if you are currently classified and being paid properly under California law.

Contact Fernandez & Lauby LLP for a no-cost consultation and our lawyers will fight for your legal rights as an employee. You can reach us online or call our toll free phone number at 888-959-8508.

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