Professional Exemption

When Employers Try Cutting Corners on Overtime, Our Tennessee Wage and Hour Attorneys Step In

Advocating for the overtime rights of employees throughout Tennessee

For more than three-quarters of a century the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) has defined both the minimum hourly wages that covered employees must be paid and the terms and conditions under which they must be compensated for overtime hours; that is, for time worked in excess of forty hours per week. The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at the rate of one and one-half times their base hourly rate (called “time-and-a-half”) for overtime hours unless the law exempts their jobs from the overtime requirement.

The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) has set out detailed standards by which various categories of jobs may be considered “exempt” from overtime requirements. One such category is called “professional” jobs. Employers or their human resources departments decide which jobs in their companies should be placed in this category, so there is always a possibility that they may either accidentally or intentionally misclassify them, rendering the occupants of those jobs exempt from overtime when they should be eligible for it.

If you believe that your job has been misclassified and that you should be receiving overtime pay, you should consult one of the experienced Tennessee wage and hour lawyers at Gilbert Russell McWherter Scott Bobbitt, PLC. If you are unlawfully denied overtime compensation for which you are eligible, we can help.

What is a professional exemption?

The Professional Exemption is a rule that exempts individuals engaged in the “learned professions” from having to be paid for overtime hours. To qualify for this exemption an employee must meet all of the following tests:

  • He or she must compensated on a salary or fee basis of at least $455 per week;
  • His or her primary duty must be the performance of work that requires advanced knowledge. This is interpreted as work of a primarily intellectual character, and which includes the consistent exercise of independent judgment and discretion;
  • The “advanced knowledge” must be in a so-called “learned profession” such as architecture, theology, medicine, or law; or in a science such as biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering; and
  • The “advanced knowledge” must be the kind one customarily acquires by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Since these terms may be subject to interpretation, the United States Department of Labor considers the duties which the employee actually performs as determinative, rather than the employee’s job title or position description.

Some kinds of creative work may also qualify for the professional exemption. For example, acting, musical performance, writing, or artistic work may qualify if the employee meets the salary or fee test of $455 per week and their primary duty is the performance of work that requires “invention, imagination, originality, or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.”

Failure of an employer to pay required overtime

An employer who violates the FLSA’s overtime provisions may be sued by the affected employees. In a successful lawsuit, our firm may be able to help you recover:

  • Payment of all back pay for overtime that was earned but unpaid;
  • Liquidated damages of twice the amount of overtime back pay; and
  • Payment of the employees’ attorney’s fees.

Contact a Tennessee attorney if you believe your employer has misclassified your job

Learn more about how we can help. The Gilbert Firm’s attorneys have handled FLSA cases in multiple states across the Southeast and beyond, and have built a solid reputation as premier legal advocates for clients in Tennessee. If you believe you are being wrongfully exempted from overtime pay by having been misclassified as a “professional,” please call 888.354.FIRM (3476) to discuss your complaint with an experienced Tennessee wage and hour lawyer, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson.

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Gilbert McWherter Scott Bobbitt PLC and its attorneys do not maintain a bona fide office in the state of Kentucky, and do not maintain a bona fide office within the area code listed. Bona fide offices are located in Jackson and Franklin, TN.
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