Commerical helicopter pilots in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, are now entitled to mandatory time-and-a-half overtime pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 during a single workweek.
In Pignataro v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that helicopter pilots did not qualify for the "learned professional" exemption under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, because the skills and training necessary to obtain a helicopter pilot's certification and license did not require "advanced knowledge that is customarily acquired from a prolonged course of specialized instruction." Thus, helicopter pilots who work more than 40 hours a weeks are entitled to mandatory overtime pay.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals noted that jobs that traditionally fall within the "learned professional" exemption are those that require academic degrees from a college or university. Helicopter pilots, however, are not required to have academic degrees or spend a significant amount of time in the classroom. Rather, the majority of pilots' instruction takes place in the air, logging in-flight hours and undergoing in-flight instruction. And, the Court noted that a helicopter pilot's passing of practical and written tests do not qualify as the type of "prolonged court of specialized intellecutal instruction and study," that is required under the federal regulations in order for an employee to qualify for the "learned professional" exemption.