Skip to Content
Michel | King Michel | King
Free Confidential Case Evaluation 205-265-1880

Are Clinical Students Considered Employees? It Depends.


In the majority of employment law cases, employment status is an important factor when it comes to employee rights. If someone in your workplace has mistreated you or if their misconduct has caused you an employment-related injury, then it matters whether you are considered an employee, an independent contractor, or something else. An individual’s rights in the workplace depend on employment status, so discuss your situation with a Birmingham employment lawyer. In a rather unique case, this matter was examined by a Michigan court.

When Does Clinical Training Become Employment?

There are several different career paths that require clinical training in order to meet graduation requirements. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics are all examples of students who must fulfill clinical requirements as part of their curriculum. Another example that was the focus of a recent case is cosmetology students. In that case, three former cosmetology students were required to perform various cleaning and guest services for the business at which they were receiving their clinical training. Those duties included making sure fresh towels and other products were always available, doing laundry and cleaning dishes used by staff and patrons. None of the students were paid for this work as the school and the business considered it part of their clinical training. However, the students argued that they were entitled to compensation for these duties as they went beyond their required clinical training. They ultimately filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in Michigan. The court determined that these students were employees and, therefore, entitled to compensation for these duties. Because this was a training situation, the court reasoned that employee status was not all or nothing.

Training versus Work Duties

The federal court reviewed the facts and concluded that the cosmetology program took unfair advantage of the students by requiring them to perform tasks that were clearly work duties because they needed to complete their education. The cleaning and guest services tasks that they were forced to do went beyond the expected and necessary cosmetology education and training the students were in the program to receive.

The Difference Between Cosmetology Curriculum and Business Skills

The state requirements for a cosmetology license in Michigan includes 1,500 hours of classroom and clinical training. Much of that time must be spent practicing their skills on clients with direct instructor supervision. The clinical training that is required by the state does not include learning the ins and outs of the salon business. The school’s curriculum does not, either. In this case, the students were spending a substantial amount of time cleaning which goes beyond the curriculum. In this case, the students were performing the duties of an employee and, according to the court, should have been compensated appropriately for their work.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

Share To: