Expanding Professional Exemption to Adjunct Faculty

Effective in September of this year, a new California law expanded the wage law professional exemption to include part-time faculty, also known as adjunct faculty, at private, non-profit colleges and universities across the state. This law has potential wage and salary implications for all employees who are interested in teaching students at both public and private higher education institutions across the state. For more information about wage law exemptions and whether your profession may apply, talk to an experienced California employment law attorney today.

New Exemption Law

Under the new law, an employee providing instruction for a course or laboratory at an independent institution of higher education is now classified as exempt under the professional exemption of wage and hour laws so long as the adjunct faculty member meets both the duties and salary test. This expands the prior California law, which applied only to public institutions of higher education across the state. The purpose of this law is to transform part-time faculty members from hourly workers into salaried workers with a minimum threshold salary across all types of higher education institutions in California.

Duties and Salary Tests

In order to qualify for the professional exemption, an adjunct faculty member must meet the duties and salary tests. The duties test requires that the employee be primarily engaged in an occupation that is commonly recognized as a learned or artistic profession in addition to regularly exercising discretion and independent judgment about their performance or duties.

To meet the salary test, the employee must be paid a salary on a monthly basis that is the equivalent to no less than twice the state minimum wage for employment in which the employee is employed at for at least 40 hours per week. In the alternative, when a person is employed per course or laboratory, the employee must receive the following minimum wage per hour for all classroom or laboratory time, preparation, grading, office hours, and any other related work: $117 in 2020, $126 in 2021, and $135 in 2022.

In addition, employees must be compensated separately for any non-course related work on behalf of their college or university employer, which shall not affect their professional exemption under the new law. If the adjunct employee is employed under a collective bargaining agreement, the part-time employee must be paid according to the terms of that agreement so long as their classification of employment is stated in clear and unambiguous terms.

Call or Contact a California Employment Law Attorney

If you are teaching part-time at a public or private, non-profit postsecondary institution in California, you now have minimum salary protections guaranteed under state law. If you believe that your institution is not abiding by the new professional exemption, you need an experienced California employment law attorney to review your case. You may be entitled to additional wages and other compensation as an adjunct employee. Call or contact a lawyer today to learn more.