On March 11, 2008, United States District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton issued a summary judgment Order finding, as a matter of law, that a class of unlicensed accounting professionals employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP are precluded from exemption from California overtime requirements under the Professional Exemption and the Administrative Exemption set forth in California Wage Order 4-2001. Wow.

After the matter was certified and accepted for interlocutory appeal, I filed an Amicus Curiae Brief on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants addressing some of the issues raised by Judge Karlton. The most interesting issue is the Court’s treatment of the Professional Exemption, Cal. Code Regs. tit 8 § 11040(1)(A)(3), which provides for exemption under two separate paths—i.e., the “Enumerated Professions Exemption” (which requires candidates to be licensed) and the “Learned Professions Exemption” (which requires no license).

The Court determined that these "paths" cannot intersect.  It held that unlicensed accountants cannot be exempt under the Learned Professions Exemption because “accounting” is one of the enumerated professions. The result of this finding is that no unlicensed person working in the fields of law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, architecture, engineering, teaching, or accounting can ever qualify under the Learned Professions Exemption.  Can this be right? I think even Judge Karlton has his doubts:

The court expresses no opinion on whether other specific employees engaged in the enumerated professions, such as law firm associates whose bar admissions are still pending, may be learned professionals. As Justice Holmes wrote, "the life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." The Common Law, 1 (1881). The experience of those cases will be markedly different, both in terms of the history of the wage order’s enforcement and the absence of administrative agencies’ statements that such individuals are routinely wrongly classified.

Campbell v. Pricewaterhousecoopers, LLP, 602 F. Supp. 2d 1163, 1181 (E.D. Cal. 2009).