In the Ninth Circuit case, Solis v. the State of Washington, the U.S. Secretary of Labor filed a complaint against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, alleging that the department failed to pay overtime to social workers. The DHS argument that these workers fell within the learned professional exemption failed because the degree requirements for social worker positions did not “plainly and unmistakably” include a specialized course of study related directly to these positions. The learned professional exemption applies to positions that require a “prolonged course of specialized instruction.” According to the court, if simply having extensive training sufficed to qualify as a specialized course of intellectual instruction, nearly every position with a formal training program would qualify. Businesses should construe these exemptions narrowly and the employer has the burden of showing the exemption applies.
See the FLSA Fact Sheet here.