Medical Resident Stipend Ruling Shows Health Care, Other Employers Should Review Payroll Practices

Updated: January 12, 2011

In Mayo Foundation, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plea of Mayo Foundation For Medical Education And Research (Mayo) that it overrule an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Regulation that provides that medical students or others providing full-time services as part of their course of instruction do not qualify as "students" for purposes of the "student" exemption of Code § 3121(b)(10) regardless of whether "the services performed . . . may have an educational, instructional, or training aspect." See Treas. Reg.§31.3121(b)(10)-2(d)(3)(iii). Mayo Foundation, the Supreme Court ruled against Mayo Foundation. It ruled the IRS' regulation construing Code § 3121(b)(1) as inapplicable to medical students or other workers providing full-time services as part of a residency or other educational program should stand as Congress has not directly spoken to foreclose that interpretation and because the Treasury Department's rule is a reasonable construction of what Congress has said.

Beyond its specific holding, the Mayo Foundation decision also serves as another reminder that that health industry and other employers should not take the defensibility of their worker classification and associated income and payroll tax, employee benefit, employment and other practices for granted.

Recent developments send a clear message that that health industry and other employers must remain constantly diligent about confirming and documenting the defensibility of their worker classifications and other associated practices in light of evolving rules and standards, enforcement, the growing frequency and success of regulators and private plaintiff challenges, and changing workforce practices.

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