Med residents not exempt

Medical residents and their employers should pay FICA taxes.

Daily Editorial Board

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Mayo Clinic last week, saying that medical residents are not exempt from Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes known as FICA. There is a student exemption for these taxes, but the court correctly held that medical residents do not meet the terms of the exemption.
Residents are paid a stipend of $40,000-60,000 a year for their 50 to 80 hours of work a week in the hospital. The University Medical Center and Mayo Clinic argued that this work is educational, while the federal government argued that, since residents work over 40 hours a week and performed tasks that normal hospital staff would otherwise do, they should be considered employees, not students. In reality, residents are both workers and students.
However, since residents are paid for their work at the hospital, the hospital should provide Social Security contributions for those residents just as any other employer would. If residents were to be exempt from FICA so too would be the hospitals that employ them. Residents and hospitals should both have to pay into the system that is meant to provide for those residents in times of economic hardship.
Forcing hospitals to recognize residents as workers will help cure the perception that they âÄî as well as other groups such as interns and apprentices âÄî are a source of cheap, exploitable labor. Hospitals must officially recognize that while residents are pursuing education, they are also workers who perform services vital to a hospitalâÄôs operation.