Solis v. State of Washington DSHS

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2011
  • Case #: 10-35590
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Fogel for the Court; Circuit Judges Noonan and M. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Social workers do not come within the Fair Labor Standards Act “learned professional” exemption for overtime pay because the position requires course work in any of several fields broadly related to the position and does not require a prolonged course of “specialized intellectual instruction.”

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) initiated an investigation of the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”) and concluded that the DSHS “failed to pay overtime compensation to certain social workers in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938,” 29 U.S.C. § 201 (“FLSA”). The district court granted DSHS summary judgment, finding that “the social workers come within the ‘learned professional’ exemption to the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements. The Secretary of Labor appealed, arguing that social worker positions do not qualify for the “learned professional” exemption. The FLSA requires employers to pay compensation for overtime work. However the FLSA provides an exemption “for any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity” whose duties require “knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.” The Ninth Circuit holds that social workers do not come within the “learned professional” exemption, because the position does not “require a particular course of intellectual instruction directly related to the employee’s professional duties, even if they require substantial practical experience.” The Ninth Circuit reasoned that because the position requires a degree in the behavioral sciences, a requirement that may satisfied by degrees in numerous fields, does not satisfy the requirement of “specialized intellectual instruction.” REVERSED.

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