The Fair Labor Standards Act exempts teachers from minimum wage and overtime as professionals where their “primary duty is teaching, tutoring, instructing or lecturing in the activity of imputing knowledge and [the employee is] employed and engaged in this activity as a teacher in an educational establishment by which the employee is employed.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.303(a). Recently, Judge Ann D. Montgomery of the District of Minnesota applied this exemption to an instructor who taught asbestos-related courses for the not-for-profit Construction Laborers’ Education, Training and Apprenticeship Fund of Minnesota and North DakotaEscobedo v. Constr. Laborers’ Educ., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146109 (D. Minn. Oct. 11, 2012).

In affirming that the Fund properly applied the exemption to Escobedo, the Court addressed the two prongs of the exemption, determining first that Escobedo was a teacher, and then that the Fund was a qualifying educational establishment. As to the first prong, because Escobedo admitted that his primary duty was to impart knowledge to students, because he repeatedly referred to himself as an instructor who taught courses four days a week (with a fifth day for teacher preparation) and because he possessed the requisite certifications to teach, there was no material dispute as to his status as a teacher, notwithstanding his affidavit submitted on summary judgment claiming to perform “manual labor.” As to the latter issue, whether the Fund qualified as an a “educational establishment,” because the Fund was licensed but not accredited, the Court looked to other factors identified by prior courts in assessing whether an organization “is essentially a school: … (1) the title of employees; (2) the certifications required of teachers; (3) the formality of courses; (4) the granting of certificates or degrees; (5) the organization’s charter; and, (6) the teacher’s involvement in organizing, communicating and delivering curriculum.” Under these factors, the Fund clearly qualified as an educational institution.  

Many organizations, including numerous not-for-profits, offer educational programs as part of the services they provide to their community and target population. However they, like all other employers, must analyze their use of exempt classifications such as “teacher” under the FLSA and state law.