Last month the Northern District of Ohio Court held that midlevel chefs at Sushi Rock do not fall under either the executive or learned professional exemption, while top chefs do. This case is significant insofar as it sheds light on how courts currently analyze the sometimes amorphous distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees (the latter having to be paid minimum wage and overtime pay). With respect to the executive exemption, the court noted a lack of evidence that the chefs in question had sufficient supervisory authority over more junior chefs (i.e., the authority to hire or fire, or whose recommendations with respect to hiring and firing were given significant weight). With respect to the learned professional exemption, the court held that to meet the exemption the position must require “advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized instruction.” The chefs at issue did not need a specialized degree in culinary arts.
These cases are tricky and expensive. If you haven’t conducted a wage and hour audit recently, what are you waiting for?