ATLANTA — The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided not to adopt the approach by the U.S. Department of Labor in evaluating whether interns should be considered employees under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A suit brought by a group of student nurse anesthetists who allege that an anesthesiology practice in Florida required them to work long hours for which they did not get paid is an example of this. The nurses spent four semesters in a clinical setting working for Collier Anesthesia and were required by the accrediting body for nurse anesthetists in Florida to participate in around 550 cases in a variety of surgical procedures. Collier handled the scheduling and supervision of all the student’s shits.
Intern or Employee?
The plaintiffs in this case claim that the company routinely scheduled them to work more than 40 hours per week and on weekends, holidays, and between semesters. The plaintiffs allege that Collier used them in place of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in order to save money. In response, Collier argued that the number of CRNAs on its payroll and its payroll costs did not substantially change even as the number of students used in the program changed from semester to semester. Additionally, Collier claimed that the students were more of a burden than a benefit because they created added stress such as when a CRNA needed to stop to answer a student’s question or when a student failed at a procedure and a CRNA needed to step in to complete it.
At the district court level, the the court dismissed the case finding that the students were not employees under FLSA. The students appealed and argued that the district court should have followed a six-factor test used by the Department of Labor. However the Court of Appeals disagreed that that test should be followed, but instead ruled that another test used by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals should be applied.
Second Circuit Test for Employee Status
The Eleventh Circuit court stated that courts should look at the potential for danger if clinical training programs for CRNAs did not exist, and that it was not realistic to expect anesthesiology practices to take on the burden of supervising students without some sort of benefit. This benefit by itself should not make the students employees under FLSA. Therefore, the court concluded that the best approach is to focus on the benefits to the student while still considering whether the manner in which the employer implements the internship takes advantage of the student.
Under this approach, the factors to be considered include whether the internship corresponds to the academic calendar, whether the internship’s duration is limited and during which it provides the intern beneficial learning, and the extent to which the intern’s work displaces the work of paid employees.
There are situations when internships become an employment relationship and the intern becomes an employee for the purposes of FLSA. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you or a loved one is an intern that should be considered an employee and paid accordingly. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.