On January 5, the United States Department of Labor clarified that, going forward, it will use the “primary beneficiary” test a number of federal appellate courts use to determine whether interns are considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This decision was announced after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in December, became the fourth appellate court to reject the Department of Labor’s prior six-part test for the same topic.
Under the Department of Labor’s prior six-part test, an intern was considered an employee unless all the following factors were met:
1. The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees;
4. The employer provides that the training derives of no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship;
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
However, the Ninth Circuit, along with the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits, expressly rejected this test. Instead, the courts preferred the “primary beneficiary test”. Under this more flexible test, discussed by the Second Circuit in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., courts and employers would weigh and balance seven non-exhaustive factors. These factors are:
1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly comprehend that there is no anticipation of compensation.
2. The extent to which the internship provides training similar that would be given in an educational environment.
3. The extent to which the internship is linked to the intern’s formal educational program by coursework of academic credit.
4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic schedule.
5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the time period when the intern is provided beneficial learning by the internship.
6. The extent to which the intern’s work supplements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is directed without entitlement to a paid job at the end of the internship.
Employers should take time to examine any internship positions to determine if an intern could possibly be considered an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.