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Adult-ed teachers are exempt professionals

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California Labor Code covers wage-and-hour issues and includes some exceptions to the basic requirement that employees must be paid for all time worked.

One of those exceptions is the professional exception to Wage Order 4-2001, which allows school districts to pay teachers on a salary basis, figured by multiplying a flat hourly rate for each hour of classroom teaching, but not including any time spent on class preparation, grading, school events and the like. Until now, it was unclear whether adult-education teachers could be paid the same way.

Recent case: Ernest Kettenring and Veta Patrick are adult-education teachers with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Adult-education teachers provide citizenship preparation, basic education and literacy programs to about 90,000 adult students.

Kettenring and Patrick sued the district on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated adult-education teachers, claiming the district owed them wages for time spent outside the classroom. They also claimed that part-time adult-education teachers, who were also paid by the classroom hours they worked, should be paid for preparation and other time spent on behalf of their employer.

The California Court of Appeal rejected their claims. The court reasoned that the adult-education teachers, who were all state certified and exercised independent judgment, met the state and federal professional exemptions from overtime and could be paid a set salary.

That was true even if that set salary was based on the number of hours they were present in the classroom. The court said the fact that the salary was set by multiplying the number of hours they worked in the classroom by a set hourly figure didn't mean they were really hourly employees, either. (Kettenring v. Los Angeles Unified School District, No. B 197513, California Court of Appeal, 2008)

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