Vets Are Docs For FLSA Purposes
by Michael Fox
Since vet bills seem to be a major expenditure in our household, it is comforting to know that veterinarians are "engaged in the practice of medicine" and thus fall within a subset of professional employees who are not required to be paid on a salaried basis in order to be exempt. That was the issue in Clark v. United Emergency Animal Clinic (9th Cir. 12/7/04) [pdf], where vets at the all nite emergency clinic were paid on a shift basis, rather than receiving a set salary. Did that mean they were non-exempt? Not if they were deemed to be "engaged in the practice of medicine." Although the Secretary of Labor did not choose to specifically mention vets in the regulations discussing this niche of the wage and hour law, neither the district nor appeals court had trouble finding that vets are properly classified as "engaged in the practice of medicine." So the vets paid on a shift basis were properly classified as exempt from the FLSA. Just because they practice their healing powers on Fido not Grandma, does not make it any less the practice of medicine. Or, it often seems, any cheaper.