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Court: Unpaid Interns Don't Get Paid

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Student interns don't usually expect to get paid, but Patrick Velarde wasn't that kind of intern.

Velarde attended a beauty school, and performed cosmetology services at the student salon as part of his training. But he thought he should be paid for his services, so he sued.

In Velarde v. GW GJ, Inc., the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Basically, a vocational school doesn't have to pay students to work for their education.

"Primary Beneficiaries"

In the proposed class-action, the plaintiff alleged that students had to perform more than 700 hours of unpaid work to earn their cosmetology licenses. He alleged that violated state and federal labor standards.

A trial judge dismissed the case, and the appeals court affirmed. The Second Circuit said the interns were the primary beneficiaries of their labor.

Under the "primary beneficiary" test, the appeals panel said, the school was not the employer and had no obligation to to pay. The court created the test in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, which involved company interns.

For Velarde and other student interns, that was a legal education.

Cosmetology License

Like the law, cosmetology doesn't pay until you are licensed. That was the tough lesson in Verlarde's case.

In his lawsuit, he complained about more than doing cosmetology work. He said interns also had to perform janitorial and clerical chores.

Fortunately, he still got his cosmetology license. He sued the school three years after completing the program.

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