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Exempt status opinion letter boxgirl January 10, 2006 10:39 am
Wage & Hour: FLSA Opinion Letter Reiterates Paralegals Not Exempt

Without specialized education that correlates to specialized job responsibilities an opinion letter from the DOL Wage & Hour Division says paralegals and legal assistants are not exempt from overtime under FLSA. In the opinion letter dated December 16, 2005, the Wage & Hour Division stated that merely having a college degree did not satisfy the requirements for an exemption and that even a paralegal with a master’s degree in business administration who has passed an accounting certification examination is not exempt because the employee does not perform tasks specifically related to business or accounting. “While many paralegals hold four-year degrees, it does not follow that they can qualify for the learned professional exemption. Most specialized paralegal programs are two-year associates programs from a community college or equivalent institution. However, the learned professional exemption is available when a paralegal, who possesses an advanced specialized degree in other professional fields, applies advanced knowledge in that field to the performance of his or her primary duty”, according to the letter signed by Deputy Administrator Alfred B. Robinson Jr. The letter was in response to a question regarding a law firm’s staff of six paralegals who perform a variety of tasks supporting litigation, estate planning, real estate and corporation law.

“DOL Reiterates Guidance That Paralegals Are Not Exempt Employees Under FLSA”, BNA Daily Labor Report, 1/9/06; a copy of the opinion letter can be found at


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