School’s out for the summer, which means one thing for employers: it’s time to hire interns. What’s not to love about interns? Employers get students who are eager to prove themselves to work for free. All of the tedious tasks that no one wants to do can be dumped onto an intern.
There is, however, one thing not to love about hiring an intern: a lawsuit. Gone are the days where employers could basically hire an employee for free and call that person an intern. The Department of Labor has taken a more critical look at internship programs, particularly those in the private sector, setting forth relatively strict requirements in order for a worker to be labeled as an unpaid intern.
The Department of Labor has set forth the following six requirements for any unpaid internship program:
- The internship must provide training that would be similar to that the intern would receive in an educational environment;
- The internship must be for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern must not displace a regular employee;
- The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern, and may actually have its operations impeded;
- The internship should be for a fixed duration, and the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship;
- Both the employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If all of these requirements are met, then the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employees to be paid minimum wage, is not triggered, and an intern does not need to be paid. As the requirements show, internships must provide educational experiences and not just be a cheap source of labor for an employer. Therefore, employers may want to think twice about assigning interns menial tasks that can be performed by employees.
Before you hire an intern, you may want to contact an experienced attorney to review your internship program to ensure that it is in compliance with the law.