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DOL Issues Opinion Letter on the Learned Professional Exemption — Radiology Technologists Are Not Exempt

Volume 6, Issue 3
March 2, 2007

The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued an Opinion Letter applying the Fair Labor Standard Act's ("FLSA") learned professional exemption to Radiology Technologists ("Techs"), determining that these particular employees were not exempt from FLSA minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. Under the learned professional exemption, an employee is exempt from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements if: (1) the employee is compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of $455 per week or more, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities; and (2) has a "primary duty" of performing work that requires "knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instructions." To meet the "primary duty" requirement: (a) the employee must perform work requiring advanced knowledge; (b) the advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and (c) the advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

The Techs at issue reviewed doctors' orders regarding testing, ensured that the examination room was prepped, interacted with patients to ensure their tolerance for testing and to position them, administered chemicals for the examinations orally or intravenously, set up and operated the radiology equipment, evaluated the quality of the examination film and obtained further images if needed, completed patient charts, and cleaned and maintained equipment. In order to qualify for this position, a Tech must have completed a two to three year accredited radiology technology program and passed an examination.

The DOL explained that these specific Techs did not meet the educational requirements set forth in the regulations for registered or certified medical technologists which contemplate at least three years in an accredited college or university and a fourth year of professional course work in a medical technology school. Further, the Techs' work was not sufficiently "predominantly intellectual in character" to qualify for the learned professional exemption. The DOL explained that the work of a learned professional must involve "consistent exercise of discretion and judgment," such as the work of the Radiologists who read the films, as distinguished from performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work, such as the work performed by the Techs.

The Opinion Letter is based solely upon the specific duties engaged in by one company's employees and the qualifications required of those employees. It should not be relied upon to determine that all radiology technicians are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime protections of the FLSA. Instead, the Opinion Letter should be viewed as a good refresher on the learned professional exemption and an illustration of how the DOL analyzes this exemption.

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