The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an official statement of Wage and Hour Division policy concerning athletic coaches for public schools. Opinion Letter FLSA2018-6, issued on January 5, 2018, is an exact reproduction of a previous Wage and Hour Division opinion that was issued in 2009 and then rescinded less than two months later.
This Opinion Letter states that community members who coach public school athletic teams qualify as teachers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and are therefore exempt from FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay provisions.
It is important to note that this exemption applies only to coaches who are not employees of the school district. It does not apply to coaches who are employed in another nonteaching capacity by the school district. In the latter case, these coaches are not exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay provisions.
The DOL explains that coaches spend most of their time instructing student athletes in the rules and fundamentals of their respective sports. When not instructing players, coaches recruit students, supervise them during trips to and from games, discipline them when necessary, and account for their equipment. “Coaches qualify for the exemption if their primary duty is teaching and imparting knowledge to students in an educational establishment.”
Furthermore, a teaching certificate is not required to qualify for this FLSA exemption, nor is a certain minimum education or degree. “Thus, coaches whose primary duty is teaching qualify for the exemption whether or not they hold a teaching certificate or an academic degree.”
Therefore, based upon this new guidance, a school may pay its coaches as it deems appropriate so long as they are not otherwise employed by the district in a nonteaching capacity.