Professional Duties

Professional Duties
  • Employees are exempt if they (8 Cal Code Regs §11010(1)(B)(3)):
    • Are licensed or certified by the State of California and are primarily engaged in the practice of one of the following recognized professions:
      • law,
      • medicine,
      • dentistry,
      • optometry,
      • architecture,
      • engineering,
      • accounting;
  • OR
    • The employee is primarily engaged in an occupation commonly recognized as a learned or artistic profession, AND the employee customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in the performance of his or her duties.

In many respects, the professional exemption applies to many jobs that are typically reached after the attainment of a graduate degree of some sort, signifying advanced expertise or training. The explanation to this is that these kinds of jobs are only held by people who have undergone prolonged education or preparation, and so society should hold people occupying positions in these industries to a high standard.

Therefore, it is important to consider which professions actually count toward the professional occupation exemption list. Paralegals, for example, often are not given professional exemption status even though their work is decidedly related to law.

Here are some examples of professions that have been found nonexempt:

  • paralegals,
  • pharmacists (Labor Code Section 1186),
  • medical interns or residents,
  • registered nurses (except for certified nurse midwives, certified nurse practitioners, and certified nurse anesthetists), (Labor Code Section 515(f)),
  • statisticians,
  • junior engineers or drafters

For that matter, certain other professions are often exempt despite their omission from the list.

Teaching, for example, is a profession that also requires advanced training and which, in many cases, qualifies for exemption. The test:

  • A teacher is exempt as an employee if:
    • The employee is primarily engaged in the duty of imparting knowledge to pupils by teaching, instructing, or lecturing.
    • The employee customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in performing the duties of a teacher.
    • The employee earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment.
    • The employee has attained at least one of the following levels of professional advancement:
      • A baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited institution of higher education
      • Current compliance with the requirements established by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, or the equivalent certification authority in another state, for obtaining a preliminary or alternative teaching credential.

Another example would be physicians and surgeons.

  • If their primary duties require a license under the Business and Professions Code and their hourly rate of pay is at least $69.13 (as of January 2010).

In addition, "highly compensated employees" (who otherwise would not qualify for the executive, administrative, or professional duties exemptions) are also exempt if they earn $100,000 or more per year and frequently perform an executive duty. 29 CFR §541.601.

The classification of a worker is not determined by title but instead is determined by both salary and duties. Thus, it is irrelevant if a nonexempt employee agrees to work overtime without additional compensation; additional compensation would be required by California law.

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If you and other employees have not been granted proper overtime wages, contact the renowned lawyers working with overtime compensation and rest or meal breaks at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. 323-857-5900. Ask about our free initial consultation.