California Professional Exemption

California Professional Exemption Law

Note: If you satisfy the requirements below for the CA Professional Exemption, then your employer does NOT have to pay you overtime or provide you with meal or rest periods.

“Professional” employees are exempt under California law. The Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Orders establish the professional exemption. For example, IWC Wage Order 4-2001 states:

Professional Exemption. A person employed in a professional capacity means any employee who meets all of the following

(a) 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

(b) Who is primarily engaged in an occupation commonly recognized as a learned or artistic profession. For the purposes of this subsection, “learned or artistic profession” means an employee who is primarily engaged in the performance of:

(i) Work requiring knowledge of an advanced 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

(ii) 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

(iii) 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.

(c) Who customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in the performance of duties set forth in subparagraphs (a) and (b).

(d) Who earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two (2) times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Full-time employment is defined in Labor Code Section 515 (c) as 40 hours per week.

(e) Subparagraph (b) above is intended to be construed in accordance with the following provisions of federal law as they existed as of the date of this wage order: 29 C.F.R. Sections 541.207, 541.301(a)-(d), 541.302, 541.306, 541.307, 541.308, and 541.310.

[Click here for the remaining portion of Wage Order 4-2001. Under construction.]

In determining which activities constitute exempt professional work and for examples of exempt and non-exempt professional job duties, the IWC has chosen to utilize the provisions of certain specified Federal Regulations. Those Federal Regulations interpreting the California professional exemption can be found here.

CA Professional Exemption Analysis

The requirements of the administrative exemption are:

1. You have to work in a qualifying “professional” job (one of the following two types of job):

  • You must be a LICENSED professional in one of the following professions:
    • Licensed Lawyers
    • Licensed Doctors
    • Licensed Dentists
    • Licensed Architects
    • Licensed Teachers
    • Licensed Engineers
    • Licensed Optometrists
  • OR you must work in a learned or artistic profession. Click here for examples of learned or artistic professionals [under construction].

2. You must have discretion and independent judgment.

  • All “exempt” professional employees must customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in the performance of their job. Click here for examples of work that requires discretion and independent judgment.

3. You must earn a salary of at least twice the minimum wage.

  • All exempt professional employees must earn a salary of at least the minimum wage. At the current minimum wage, the yearly salary for an exempt administrative employee must be at least $33,280.

Who is NOT an exempt professional employee?

Under the wage orders, the following types of employees are NOT exempt professionals (though they may be exempt administrative or executive employees):

  • Anyone making less than twice the current minimum wage is nonexempt
  • Workers paid by the hour are nonexempt. (Except for some doctors and computer software engineers, that is.)
  • Unlicensed lawyers are nonexempt
  • Unlicensed doctors, dentists, and optometrists are nonexempt
  • Unlicensed architects are nonexempt
  • Unlicensed engineers are nonexempt
  • Unlicensed teachers are nonexempt (what is considered teaching under the Wage Orders? [Under Construction]
  • Unlicensed accountants are nonexempt
  • Pharmacists are nonexempt
  • Registered nurses are nonexempt, but some nurses are exempt [under construction]