Stipends paid to medical residents to provide on patient care and other medical services for 40 or more hours per week as part of an accredited graduate medical education program are wages paid to employees for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes purposes and do not qualify as exempt from FICA tax or withholding as student stipends according to January 11, 201 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Mayo Foundation v. U.S. The decision is the latest reminder to health care providers and others of the need to critically review and update as necessary their organizations existing worker and wage characterization in light of evolving interpretations and the growing success of regulators and private plaintiffs in challenging these classifications.
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 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 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. See e.g. Review of Worker Classification Needed As Classification Scrutiny Rises;Minimum Wage, Overtime Risks Highlighted By Labor Department Strike Force Targeting Residential Care & Group Homes; Review & Strengthen Defensibility of Existing Worker Classification Practices In Light of Rising Congressional & Regulatory Scrutiny; 250 New Investigators, Renewed DOL Enforcement Emphasis Signal Rising Wage & Hour Risks For Employers; Quest Diagnostics, Inc. To Pay $688,000 In Overtime Backpay.
The IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators are stepping up scrutiny of and enforcement of worker classifications and claims of exemption from applicable employment, tax and other requirements. In light of these and other developments, health industry and other employers should take reasonable steps to guard against these and other growing risks of worker misclassification and associated non-compliance. To minimize their potential exposure, health industry and other employers should consult with qualified legal counsel for advice within the scope of attorney-client privilege concerning the need to audit or otherwise act to strengthen the defensibility of their existing worker classification, employee benefit, fringe benefit, employment, wage and hour, and other workforce policies to mitigate exposures to potential IRS, Labor Department or other risks of worker misclassification or the handling of associated payroll, employment or other responsibilities.
For Help With Investigations, Policy Updates Or Other Needs
If you need assistance in conducting a risk assessment of or responding to an IRS, Labor Department or other legal challenges to your organization’s existing workforce classification or other labor and employment, employee benefit or compensation practices, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872 .
Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 23 years of work helping employers; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit and management policies and practices. The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, and the Managing Editor of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, Ms. Stamer recently was a featured panelist on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Teleconference on “Worker Classification & Alternative Workforce: Employee Plans & Employment Tax Challenges” and has worked, published and spoken extensively on worker classification and other related matters. She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.
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