On December 18, 2017, the Ninth Circuit held in Benjamin v. B&H Education, Inc., F.3d, No. 15-17147, 2017 WL 6460087, that cosmetology students were not employees of their schools. In doing so, the Ninth Circuit joined the Second and Eleventh Circuits in adopting the primary beneficiary test to determine whether students are employees. The Benjamin case was the first to reach a decision from the Ninth Circuit and joined many other jurisdictions that had previously dismissed virtually identical cases (including a recent affirmance of summary judgment by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit).
The Benjamin plaintiffs were former students who alleged that under federal, California and Nevada law, they should have been paid wages as employees for the time they spent practicing skills in the schools’ clinic classroom and performing concierge duties (e.g., cleaning, sanitizing, greeting clients, recommending hair products, etc.). U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment for the school, holding that “Plaintiffs were not employees under federal or state law because Plaintiffs were the primary beneficiaries of the educational program and they had not shown that [the cosmetology school] subordinated the educational function of its clinics to its own profit-making purposes.” [Note: Duane Morris represented B&H Education in this case in the Northern District of California.]
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