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Learned Professional Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

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To meet the learned professional exemption. an employee has the following requirements:

  • primary duty must be performance of work requiring advanced knowledge;
  • is in a field of science or learning;
  • customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction; and
  • is paid at least $455 a week or $23,660 annually free and clear of board, lodging or other non-cash items. (Exception: The salary level and salary basis tests do not apply to doctors, lawyers, and teachers.)

Advanced Knowledge - The learned professional exemption applies only if the employee’s primary duty is the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course in specialized intellectual instruction. The work requiring “advanced knowledge” means work that is predominately intellectual in character, and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment. An exempt professional employee uses the advanced knowledge to analyze, interpret or make deductions from varying facts or circumstances. It is not work involving routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work. Advanced knowledge cannot be attained at the high school level.

Fields of science are occupations with recognized professional status. Fields of science or learning include law, theology, medicine, pharmacy, accounting, teaching, architecture, engineering, and the physical, chemical or biological sciences.

The phrase “prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction” means that the learned professional exemption is limited to professions where specialized, academic training is a standard prerequisite for entering the profession. The best evidence than an employee meets this requirement is possession of the appropriate academic degree. It is not available for occupations that may be performed with only the general knowledge acquired by an academic degree in a field; knowledge acquired through an apprenticeship; or training in the performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical processes.

Exemption is also available to employees in such professions who possess substantially the same knowledge level and perform substantially the same work as the degreed employees, but who attain the advanced knowledge though a combination of work experience and intellectual instruction.

Occupations meeting professional exemptions include doctors, physician assistants, lawyers, teachers, architects, engineers, pharmacists, chefs, and actuaries.