Archive for March, 2009

Are Interns Eligible for Workers Compensation?

Workers compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for the mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. But it sometimes is difficult to determine who qualifies as an employee. Does a person have to be paid to receive workers’ comp benefits?

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 (2), provides, in pertinent part, that an employee is “every person in the service of another under any contract of hire or apprenticeship, written or implied.” So does this definition include unpaid interns who work for a company to gain experience?

The courts in Georgia look at several factors to determine whether an uncompensated person qualifies as an employee and thus is eligible for workers compensation. Specifically, in North v. Floyd County Bd. of Educ., 442 S.E.2d 809 (Ga.App. 1994), the court found that a workers’ compensation claimant who had only begun her training period as a substitute bus driver for the defendant was not an “employee” at time of injury. The court considered the facts that Ms. North was did not appear to be under the Board’s control, she was not paid during training period, she was not assured that she would be hired after successfully completing training, and the County Board did not receive any significant benefit from her services. Accordingly, the court held Ms. North was not entitled to workers comp benefits.

The Georgia courts have not specifically addressed the question of whether unpaid interns are “employees” eligible for workers comp benefits. The North decision is instructive on this issue, however, since interns are not compensated and the benefits derived by the employer for interns may not be significant enough to render the relationship an employment.

Thus, any companies who use unpaid interns should consider carefully the potential ramifications of such relationships and should plan for their workers’ compensation insurance needs appropriately.

For more information, please contact Timothy Buckley III, Esq. at (404) 633-9230.


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