Summer feels really far away right now. It’s just been brutally cold here in the Northeast.
(How cold? Too cold for skiing. That’s brutal by any stretch.)
But summer WILL eventually come. So we’re told.
So the news late Friday that the U.S. Department of Labor was scrapping the test it had released just a few years ago about interns probably went a bit unnoticed.
At first blush, it might look like a big deal. But, in reality, not so much because the federal courts here (including New York as well) had already adopted the new test that the USDOL announced on Friday.
I’ve covered both before, but the TL;DR version is this: The DOL is going to the “primary benefit” or “primary beneficiary” standard that had been outlined in 2015 by the Second Circuit.
Law360 summarized it pretty well here:
Under the [Second Circuit] test, courts have analyzed the “economic reality” of interns’ relationship with their employer to determine which party is the primary beneficiary of the relationship. The standard has been applied in various cases where courts have ruled that interns in a variety of industries, as the primary beneficiaries of their internships, don’t qualify as employees for FLSA purposes and can’t collectively pursue claims for misclassification and wage violations under that statute.
That said, employers in Connecticut don’t have it easy. As I noted in a prior post as well, Connecticut passed anti-discrimination law protection for interns that uses another test too. That law better tracked the old DOL interpretation which has now been overturned. That said, that law does not apply to wage and hour claims, only discrimination claims.
So, what does it mean? Employers have a tricky time structuring internships to meet both federal and state law guidance. The “primary beneficiary” test is going to carry the day in many instances, but employers that often use interns should still consult their legal counsel to see if there are any particular issues that need to be addressed for your company.