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Externs who received credit can’t sue for wages

11th Circuit sided with employers in a recent case

While the large class action unpaid intern wage and hour suits against Hearst Corp. and Fox Entertainment Group are still pending or have settled, the 11th Circuit recently sided with the employer-defendants in a case raising similar issues.

In Kaplan v. Code Blue Coding and Billing, students in MedVance Institute’s Medical Billing and Coding Specialist program, which required all students to complete an externship after finishing their other course work, filed suit against employers where they served their externships seeking minimum wage. They claimed that given the lack of formal structure and the repetitive nature of the work, they received very little educational benefit from their externships and instead the defendants benefitted from their work

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the 11th Circuit agreed. In an unpublished opinion, the court said the plaintiffs did benefit by engaging in hands-on work and receiving academic credit that enabled them to receive their degrees. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the defendant benefitted economically and instead said the externs made the business less efficient. “The undisputed evidence … demonstrates that defendants’ staff spent time—time away from their own regular duties—training plaintiffs and supervising and reviewing plaintiffs’ work,” the court said.

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