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Fourth Circuit Says Medical Case Managers Are Exempt Professionals

    Client Alerts
  • January 04, 2016
Over the past several years, the healthcare industry and Department of Labor have clashed over the application of the Professional exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements to various nursing jobs. Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes North and South Carolina) concluded that a field medical case manager qualifies as an exempt professional under the FLSA.

Williams v. Genex Servs., LLC involved a registered nurse who worked with injured employees to develop treatment and return-to-work plans. She alleged that she was entitled to overtime under the FLSA because her job duties involved largely clerical duties. The district court disagreed, noting her RN training and the considerable discretion and independent judgment involved in developing treatment plans.

The Fourth Circuit agreed, affirming dismissal of the claim. DOL generally classifies registered nurses as exempt professionals, noting the prolonged period of study necessary to attain that designation. The plaintiff claimed that her actual job duties did not require use of a RN’s skills, but the employer introduced into evidence the plaintiff’s own resume. This document demonstrated that the plaintiff was using her advanced nursing judgment in carrying out her job duties. When combined with her independent work and discretion in setting treatment plans, the job functions met the requirements for the Professional exemption.

DOL has consistently held that LPNs, certified nurse assistants and other less skilled nursing positions do not meet the requirements for the Professional exemption. However, this case demonstrates that for RNs, federal court will assume that the exemption applies absent convincing evidence that the job does not involve these advanced skills.