Professional employees are exempt from state wage and hour laws

Generally, California workers enjoy the protections provided to them by the state’s wage and hour laws. Some examples of these laws include those governing overtime pay and those stating when rest breaks are required.

However, not all workers benefit from these laws. There are exempt workers who are not covered by California’s wage and hour protections. One class of exempt workers are professional employees.

What is a professional employee?

There are several requirements that must be satisfied for a worker to qualify as a professional employee, and thus not covered by California wage and hour protections.

First, only certain professions qualify for this exemption, as they require state licensure or certification. These professions include:

  • The practice of law
  • The practice of medicine, including dentistry and optometry
  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Teaching
  • Accounting

In addition to these eight professions, those who are primarily engaged in a job that is considered a “learned or artistic profession” are exempt from state wage and hour protections.

A learned profession is one that requires a significant understanding of science or another field that requires continued and specialized education beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Artistic professions include those that involve the creation of original and creative works. Some examples of artistic professions include musicians, authors and actors.

Finally, learned or artistic professions include those where the work performed is mainly intellectual and fluctuates in nature, rather than being routine and standardized.

To be a professional employee exempt from California wage and hour protections, a worker must also be able to use their own discretion and independent judgment when carrying out their job requirements. These workers must not be under the immediate oversight of a supervisor regarding the major aspects of their job.

Finally, to be a professional employee exempt from California wage and hour protections, a worker must earn at least twice the state minimum wage per month for full-time employees.

As this shows, not all work that seems professional in nature will qualify as being exempt from California wage and hour protections. There are many examples of jobs that are professional but do not meet the state’s strict definition of what constitutes a professional exempt employee.