Are physician assistants entitled to overtime pay?

The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, requires employers to pay their employers one a half times their regular rate for any hours worked past 40 hours per week. However, this overtime rule does not apply to every employer and employee.

First, the FLSA only covers employees and not independent contractors. Under the FLSA, employees are those workers who are economically dependent on their employers. Second, the Act only covers employers who have workers that are engaged in or affecting interstate commerce. The interstate commerce requirement is interpreted very broadly and includes most employees.

Lastly, for an employee to receive protection from the FLSA and entitle him to overtime pay he must not be an exempt employee. The FLSA exempts employees who occupy certain positions. Physician assistants are among the employees most often neglected when it comes to overtime pay. Employers often classify them so that they fall under the learned professional exemption; however, this exemption does not apply and physician assistants must be paid overtime.

Physician Assistants Do Not Fall Under the Learned Professional Exemption

The learned professional exemption applies if the employee is paid at least $913 per week or $47,476 per year, his primary duty is work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning that is customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Physician assistants do not fall under the learned professional exemption because the job does not require advanced knowledge customarily acquired through prolonged, specialized instruction. This advanced knowledge requirement typically means that an advanced degree is a standard prerequisite for the position—i.e. a law degree, or medical degree. Further, this requirement can’t be satisfied just be general knowledge gained from a degree in any field, or knowledge only gained through experience.

Although physician assistants do need to have some job-specific training, they are not required to obtain a medical degree like a physician does. Therefore, they do not fall under the learned professional exemption to the FLSA and are entitled to overtime pay.