Registered Veterinary Technicians are Non-Exempt Employees

Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) are a paraprofessional class of employee that assist veterinarians in the health care of animals and the analysis of animal disease.  To be a RVT, one must have completed a Veterinary Medical Board (VMB)-approved education and training program and passed a State of California licensing examination.  RVTs also must work under the direction and supervision of licensed veterinarians to perform routine medical and emergency procedures.  Some of their essential functions include:

    • Preparing animals for surgery.
    • Inducing and monitoring anesthesia.
    • Assisting veterinarians with surgery.
    • Performing routine clinical laboratory tests.
    • Maintaining all surgical packs.
    • Implanting microchips into animals placed for adoption.
    • Rendering emergency treatment in life-threatening situations to sustain life.
    • Performing follow-up treatment as prescribed by a veterinarian.
    • Screening animals for adoptions.
    • Examining all animals coming into the shelter and determining if referral to a veterinarian is necessary.
    • Performing dental prophylaxis and evaluation.
    • Providing expert witness testimony in court cases related to animal cruelty and neglect.
    • Documenting medical progress in cruelty cases and providing case management for long-term “in-custody” holds.

Given the wide variety of tasks and responsibilities, it is easy for one to believe that an RVT would be considered exempt from overtime compensation.  However, according to the law, they clearly are not exempt.

Federal and State Wage and Hour Law

The most widely applicable federal wage-hour legislation is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which establishes the maximum hours of work for every employee who is engaged in interstate commerce or the production of goods for interstate commerce. The Act is enforceable in the state courts.
The duty to pay overtime wages is a well-established fundamental public policy affecting the broad public interest.  The FSLA requires that most employees in the United States be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at time, and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
However, Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees.  To qualify for exemption, employees must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.1
Similarly, under state statute, only executives, administrators, supervisors, or the like are under exemption from state minimum wage and overtime pay statutes, as well. The question of who is an exempt “professional”, “executive”, or “administrator” for purposes of such statutes entails the examination of criteria unique to that statute.  Individual state jurisdictions may exempt particular categories of employees, for example agricultural workers, from coverage under their minimum wage and/or overtime pay acts.  A discussion of such categorical exemptions is beyond the scope of article.

Technologists and Technicians

Technologists and technicians, such as engineering technicians, ultrasound technologists, licensed veterinary technicians, avionics technicians and other similar employees are not exempt under Section 13(a)(1) from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA because they generally do not meet the requirements for the learned professional exemption.  This is codified as well in the California Code of Regulations section 11040, which regulates the wages, hours, and working conditions in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations.

To qualify for the learned professional employee exemption under Section 13(a)(1) of the FSLA, all of the following tests must be met:

    1. The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as define in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;
    2. The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment;
    3. The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and
    4. The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Under CCR 11040 to qualify for the learned professional employee exemption as a licensed veterinary technician, all of the following applicable sections must be met:

    1. Work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field or science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study; and
    2. Work is predominantly intellectual and varied in character (as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work) and is of such character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time.

Technologists and technicians do not meet these requirements for the learned professional exemption because they do not work in occupations that have attained recognized professional status, which requires that an advanced specialized academic degree is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession. Thus, while the RVT is considered a paraprofessional position, it is not a fully professional position in the eyes of the labor law.  As a result, it does not qualify as an exempt position.
If you are a veterinarian, presently employing RVTs, it is therefore imperative that you begin tracking the RVTs hours, and paying them any applicable overtime.  If you are in need of assistance to get into compliance with your tracking of wages and hours, please contact Simas & Associates, Ltd. as soon as possible.  Our attorneys have experience guiding all businesses through the murky wage and hour laws – both federal and state.  We can also ensure that you have proper titles, job descriptions, and documented procedures and supervision of tasks in order to ensure that you do not run afoul of the Veterinary Medical Board.

1 This salary basis was last revised July 2008 by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.