Fact Sheet #17J: First Responders and the Part 541 Exemptions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Revised September 2019
NOTICE: On August 30, 2023, the Department of Labor (Department) announced issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees. The NPRM proposes to update and revise the regulations issued under section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act implementing the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, and professional employees. Proposed revisions include increasing the standard salary level and the highly compensated employee total annual compensation threshold, as well as providing an automatic updating mechanism that would allow for the timely and efficient updating of all the thresholds to reflect current earnings data.
*Note: The Department of Labor revised the regulations located at 29 C.F.R. part 541 with an effective date of January 1, 2020. WHD will continue to enforce the 2004 part 541 regulations through December 31, 2019, including the $455 per week standard salary level and $100,000 annual compensation level for Highly Compensated Employees. The final rule is available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/27/2019-20353/defining-and-delimiting-the-exemptions-for-executive-administrative-professional-outside-sales-and.
This fact sheet provides information on the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay provided by Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA as it applies to first responders.
The FLSA requires that most employees in the United States be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than 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. Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) also exempts certain computer 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 $684* per week.
Police Officers, Fire Fighters and Other First Responders
29 C.F.R. § 541.3 provides that police officers, detectives, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, highway patrol officers, investigators, inspectors, correctional officers, parole or probation officers, park rangers, fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, ambulance personnel, rescue workers, hazardous materials workers and similar employees (“first responders”) who perform work such as preventing, controlling or extinguishing fires of any type; rescuing fire, crime or accident victims; preventing or detecting crimes; conducting investigations or inspections for violations of law; performing surveillance; pursuing, restraining and apprehending suspects; detaining or supervising suspected and convicted criminals, including those on probation or parole; interviewing witnesses; interrogating and fingerprinting suspects; preparing investigative reports; and other similar work are not exempt under Section 13(a)(1) or the regulations and thus are protected by the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA.
First responders generally do not qualify as exempt executives because their primary duty is not management. They are not exempt administrative employees because their primary duty is not the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers. Similarly, they are not exempt learned professionals because their primary duty is not the performance of work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Although some first responders have college degrees, a specialized academic degree is not a standard prerequisite for employment.
Where to Obtain Additional Information
For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website: http://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd and/or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).
This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.