Unlicensed Trade School Teachers Non-Exempt

Trade school or technical school teachers who are not licensed are not automatically exempt from overtime and meal periods.

California’s professional exemption from overtime, meal periods, etc. usually applies to teachers. So, generally speaking, teachers are usually exempt, regardless of whether they are paid hourly wages. However, there is one group of teachers that is not necessarily exempt: unlicensed teachers at trade schools are not exempt “professionals” under California law.

The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE,” the umbrella agency under which sits the Labor Commissioner/Labor Board) publishes its wage and hour “enforcement policies” online. (The “DLSE Enforcement Manual,” as we call it, applies only to cases brought before the Labor Commissioner, though many of the laws stated therein may apply to wage claims brought in civil court — you should seek competent counsel from a wage claim lawyer before relying on the Enforcement Manual.) The DLSE describes how the professional exemption will not apply to these types of teachers:

Under California law a teacher will not qualify for the exemption unless he or she (1) is certified by the Commission for Teacher Preparation and Licensing (“CTPL”), or (2) teaches in an accredited college or university. The term “college or university” means a school of higher learning and academic studies, which grants the bachelor’s degree (or higher degrees) in liberal arts and/or sciences and/or professions. Consequently, a high school or elementary school teacher who is not certified by the CTPL cannot be exempt. Likewise, a teacher in a trade school or technical school who is not certified by the CTPL cannot be exempt.

The exception for uncertified teachers in trade or technical schools from the professional exemption can have dramatic effects. These teachers are often brought in to teach multiple sessions each day of identical, long classes (like two 5-hour classes, back to back). That means that they can incur serious overtime and lunch break wages. They can bring wage claims to recover unpaid overtime wages and for denied lunch breaks. Their claims could be substantial.

If you are an uncertified teacher at a trade or technical school, you may very well be nonexemt from the payment of overtime and receiving 30-minute, off-duty meal periods. That means you can bring a California overtime wage claim and/or a lunch break wage claim. Contact Strauss & Strauss APC now for a free case evaluation.

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