Cosmetology teachers, but not day care teachers, are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act‘s (FLSA’s) overtime and minimum wage rules, according to two recent opinion letters from the Department of Labor.

The FLSA contains an exemption for professional employees, including any “teacher in elementary or secondary schools.”  Cosmetology teachers qualify for the exemption, according to the DOL, because they teach in an accredited secondary school and because their primary duty is "teaching and instructing students in cosmetology theory."  Yes, you read that correctly:  cosmetology theory.  Click here to read the DOL’s opinion letter on cosmetologists

Day care teachers, on the other hand, do not qualify for the exemption because they do not teach in a qualifying institution.  According to the DOL, “[u]nless the daycare center provides grade school curriculums, introductory programs in kindergarten, or nursery school programs in elementary education of the sort described in [the act], the instructors are not within the scope of the teacher exemption of the FLSA.”  Click here to read the DOL’s opinion letter on day care teachers.

What lesson can we learn from these opinions?  The FLSA exemptions are highly technical and not always intuitive.  If you are classifying your employees as FLSA-exempt, not only should you make sure the employees meet all of the duties tests under the statute and regulations, but also that your organization meets any requirements that may be imposed as well.  For more guidance on the FLSA exemptions, read this compliance guide on the FLSA from our friends at the DOL.