I mean, as a practical matter, attorneys, doctors, and other such fields work far more than 40 hours a week. Attempting to bill time and a half as a lawyer would probably amount to legal malpractice.
But legally, why should overtime laws not apply? Overtime laws are not created to benefit the person paying the salary, they are meant to reward the employee who works too much.
A California State Court found that law school graduates, who have not yet passed the bar, but are working under the supervision of an attorney, are already members of the “learned” profession, and are exempt from overtime pay.
If you’re a law school graduate doing legal work at a firm while waiting to take the bar exam, a state appeals court says you’re already a member of a “learned profession,” which means the firm doesn’t have to pay you overtime.
Professionals have long been exempt from California’s wage rules that require overtime pay and certain other benefits, such as daily meal periods and rest breaks, for most employees.
Wednesday’s ruling by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco interpreted that exemption to cover law graduates who don’t yet have their licenses but work on cases under a licensed attorney’s supervision.
The justices said a federal appeals court in San Francisco reached a similar conclusion in June for employees of accounting firms who help accountants conduct audits.
Both courts relied on a 1989 order by the state Industrial Welfare Commission that excluded all members of “learned professions” from overtime. The commission’s previous rules had exempted only licensed members of certain professions, including lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers and accountants.
The commission said its new category covered anyone whose work is mainly intellectual, or requires advanced knowledge, and who “regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment.” The state court said that description fit Matthew Zelasko-Barrett, who worked as a law clerk for the Brayton-Purcell firm in Novato from 2007 to 2009, when he passed the bar exam.
As a clerk, Zelasko-Barrett researched legal issues, drafted documents, interviewed witnesses and did a variety of other work on the firm’s cases, the court said.
Although he was supervised by a lawyer and did not sign his name to the documents, he still exercised “a significant level of discretion” in his work, which was mainly intellectual rather than routine clerical tasks, Justice Stuart Pollak said in the 3-0 ruling.
“The commission said its new category covered anyone whose work is mainly intellectual, or requires advanced knowledge, and who “regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment.””
What does that even mean? Would this law not have a disparate impact on certain over-represented groups in certain fields. I sniff the next employment law case coming on…