Q: Is our ministry employee exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as a "professional" employee?

A: Salary level, salary basis, and job duties will be taken into consideration to decide if the professional exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act applies.

To determine if the professional exemption applies, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will look at three issues: salary level, salary basis, and job duties.

Salary Level.* Your professional employee must earn at least $455 per week ($23,660 per year for a full-year worker) to qualify for the exemption. Compensation may be paid biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly, but it must equal or exceed $455 a week. Check with your state's labor office to see if your state has rules that govern pay frequency.

*Note: A change to this salary level is currently on hold due to a court injunction. If the change is upheld by the court, the salary level will increase to $913 per week ($47,476 for a full-year worker). The change would also include an automatic increase to the salary threshold every three years to maintain the minimum salary level at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest wage census region.

Because the consequences of misapplying the professional exemption can be costly, ministries are encouraged to seek a local attorney’s assistance when considering these questions and making a final determination.

Salary Basis. Your professional employee must earn a salary. This means he or she receives a predetermined amount for any week in which work is performed, regardless of the quality or quantity of the work.

Job Duties. To qualify for the professional exemption, an employee’s primary duty must include performing work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning, customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Occupations recognized as “professional” include those in law, theology, medicine, pharmacy, accounting, teaching, architecture, engineering, actuarial computation, physical sciences, chemical sciences and biological sciences.

If you think a particular position might qualify for the professional exemption, it may be helpful to ask the following questions:

  • Does this employee spend more than half of his or her work time performing work that requires an uncommon degree of knowledge?
  • Are this employee’s duties primarily intellectual in nature and do they require the regular exercise of discretion and judgment that cannot be attained at the high-school level?
  • Do this employee’s duties involve a field of science or learning that typically requires advanced formal or informal education?

Because the consequences of misapplying the professional exemption can be costly, ministries are encouraged to seek a local attorney’s assistance when considering these questions and making a final determination.

Recommended Resources

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*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.