Ninth Circuit holds FLSA Does not Exempt Social Workers as “Learned Professionals” – Los Angeles Employment Attorneys Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik

by Norman B. Blumenthal on December 21, 2012

  The Ninth Circuit has held that social workers are not “learned professionals” and as such the State of Washington misclassified their positions.  The social workers are not exempt but covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), entitled to overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

Under the State of Washington guidelines individuals hired into social worker 2 and social worker 3 positions must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in one or more degree areas – social services, human services, behavioral serviced, or an allied field.  As such, social workers 2 and 3 were classified as “learned professionals” exempt from FLSA overtime protection.

When the Department of Labor (DOL) later issued an opinion letter stating that only social worker positions that required “a master’s degree, and not just a bachelor’s degree, were “learned professionals” several social workers 2 and 3 filed a DOL complaint.  The DOL concluded these individuals were not exempt from FLSA, but the district court disagreed.  The DOL appealed, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court ruling.

The state of Washington did not require a “prolonged course of specialized intellectual study,” their educational requirement could be satisfied by degrees in diverse fields, and there was no examination of an applicant’s coursework once it determines that the applicant’s degree is within one of those fields.

If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & BhowmikBlumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik is an experienced California employment law firm with offices located in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The firm dedicates its practice to contingency fee employment law work for issues involving misclassification as a salaried worker exempt from overtime, failure to pay vacation wages, misclassification as an independent contractor, off-the-clock work, wrongful termination, discrimination and other California labor laws.

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