The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2008-17. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
This Opinion Letter clarifies that Certified Occupational Therapist Assistants (COTAs) employed by a school district do not qualify as either exempt professionals or exempt administrative employees in educational establishments. The COTAs were requesting to be reclassified from nonexempt paraprofessionals to exempt professional employees.
The educational requirement for COTAs “is that which is sufficient to obtain certification by the state Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners.” This requires “at least 60 academic semester credits or the equivalent from an accredited institution of higher education.” The DOL ruled that completion of only “60 semester hours does not qualify as a ‘prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.’” Additionally, COTAs do not meet the standards to qualify as registered or certified medical technologists.
Also, since COTAs primary duty is related to the health of the students, they do not qualify under the administrative exemption for employees in educational establishments.
State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.