Monday, November 27, 2017

Grunt work does not make an intern an employer under the state labor law

Under the state labor laws, interns who obtain an educational benefit from their placements are not employees and are therefore not entitled to the wage protections that everyone else gets. In this case, the plaintiff was placed in an internship at a nursing and rehabilitation center. But she wants to get paid because she did not obtain any educational benefits from her placement. The Court of Appeals disagrees, and plaintiff gets zero dollars for her time.

The case is Sandler v. Benden, a summary order issued on November 13. Plaintiff says that during her time at Bayview Manor, she did "grunt work" and only "secretarial tasks" but receiving nothing of educational value. After she complained about this, she was dismissed from Bayview and expelled from college. She was later reinstated at college but did not receive course credit for her year-long internship. So wasn't she just another employee and not an intern? No.

In 2015, the Court of Appeals devised a multi-part test in determining when an intern is really an intern and not entitled to the benefits of the labor law, such as minimum wage. That case  is Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 811 F.3d 528 (2d Cir. 2015). This eight-part balancing test is all the more trickier since no single factor is dispositive.

In this case, factors that hurt plaintiff's case are (1) she did not expect compensation when she started the internship and (2) she did receive educational training during her internship as she was assigned an individual client at the facility and received one group assignment. Also, she had to write down her experiences as a social work intern. And she would have received academic credit had she completed the program. In addition, the duration of her internship coincided with the academic calendar year and she was never promised a paid position at the facility upon the completion of her internship. While she was given "drudge work," that alone is not enough. The Court of Appeals has held that "employers could receive an immediate advantage from unpaid interns." In other words, interns perform grunt work for which there is no paycheck.

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