Our colleague Nathaniel M. Glasser, a Member of the Firm at Epstein Becker Green, has a post on the Hospitality Labor and Employment Law Blog that will be of interest to many of our readers: “Fourth Circuit Decision Highlights Need for Employers to Assess Whether Training Time Should Be Compensated.”

Whether time spent in training is compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is an issue that the courts have addressed in a variety of contexts. A new Fourth Circuit decision – Harbourt v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland, LLC – addressed that issue in the context of pre-hire training provided to some casino workers in Maryland and concluded that the casino workers alleged sufficient facts to proceed with their claims that they should have been paid for pre-hire training. …

While Maryland Live! may still establish that the trainees, and not the casino, were the primary beneficiaries of its dealer school such that their training time is not compensable, the decision to permit the lawsuit to proceed highlights the need for employers to review their own policies and practices relating to training. Employers that have training programs that do not pay attendees for their time should review those programs closely to determine whether they are for the primary benefit of the attendees and, if not, consider either paying the attendees for their attendance or restructuring them so that they primarily benefit the attendees, not the employer.

Read the full post here.

On July 2, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a federal district court decision that held that unpaid interns should have been classified and paid as employees under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York State Labor Law. Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., Nos. 13-4478-cv, 13-4481-cv (2d Cir. July 2, 2015). The Second Circuit’s decision provides valuable guidance to employers with unpaid interns.

In the case, the Second Circuit noted the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL’s”) 1967 and 2010 informal guidance on “trainees” and “interns” respectively, and specifically the DOL’s six-part test regarding the “intern” exception to the definition of “employee” under the FLSA. The Second Circuit found the factors considered by the DOL to be useful, but expressly declined to defer to the DOL’s guidance requiring that ALL six parts be met to find non-employee status. Further, the Second Circuit stated that, unlike court deferral to an agency’s interpretation of its own statute or regulation, the DOL here was interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947) and had no special expertise in interpreting court decisions.

As to the merits of the intern issue, the Second Circuit said that the DOL and the courts should weigh all the factors addressed in Portland Terminal and additional factors and consider the totality of the circumstances. Most importantly, the Second Circuit said, the district courts should focus on whether the company or the intern was the “primary beneficiary” of the relationship. In this regard, the Second Circuit suggested that the following seven non-exclusive factors be considered:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including clinical and other hands‐on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, 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 conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

The Second Circuit expressly stated that in applying these factors, no one factor is determinative and every factor need not point in the same direction. Further, courts may consider other relevant evidence beyond the specified factors in appropriate cases.

The decision provides valuable guidance to employers with unpaid interns. In light of Fox Searchlight, employers everywhere – but particularly those in New York, Connecticut and Vermont (within the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit)– should carefully review their internship programs.   Among other things, they should carefully tailor such programs to insure that they are designed and implemented so that the interns are the “primary beneficiaries” of their internships.

For additional information, please read Epstein Becker Green’s recent advisory.

By Douglas Weiner and Brian Molinari

In the current economic downturn, competition for desirable positions of employment is keen. Ambitious job seekers may approach an employer asking for an unpaid position to gain experience, skills and contacts. While such a relationship may prove mutually advantageous, employers should remember that the DOL recently emphasized the FLSA’s compensation requirements apply to employees who are required or allowed to work. The terms “to suffer or permit to work” have been construed expansively in order to effectuate the broad remedial purposes of the Act.

Volunteering Does Not Mean Waiving

It has been determined that employees subject to the Act may not choose to “decline” the protections of the Act by performing activities characterized as “volunteer” services. Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 302 (1985). In that case, the Supreme Court was concerned that unless employees were barred on a general basis from “volunteering” to perform any services for their employers there would be potential for the coercion of uncompensated services, to the detriment of the purposes of the Act. The Court did not wish to allow the prohibition against employees waiving their protections under the Act to be circumvented by characterizing work as “volunteer” services, citing Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 450 U.S. 728 (1981) and Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O’Neil, 324 U.S. 697 (1945). Accordingly, covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer. Thus, internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met.

Fact Sheet #71: The Test For Unpaid Interns

Individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation, according to DOL, only under certain circumstances. Whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

1.                  The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, 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, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4.                  The employer that provides the training derives 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 conclusion of the internship; and

6.                  The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. 

Accordingly, employers must tread carefully when entertaining what is certain to be many offers from job seekers to work as an unpaid intern. Unless all 6 factors above support an unpaid internship, individuals working for “for-profit” employers typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.