If you are considering hiring a free intern, there are a few points you should consider. While interns were once considered a bonanza of free labor, employers are no longer free to enjoy this former Wild West of employment law.
The US Department of Labor (“DOL”) has stated that the following criteria must be met for an internship to be exempt from minimum wage requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and,
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent at the internship.
The above listed requirements can be rather stringent. And, whether or not you agree with them, it’s important to be aware of their existence. The DOL, under the current administration, has become much more active as in the exercise of its powers as a regulatory agency.
If you have questions about a current or prospective intern at your organization, you should contact your attorney (or an employment lawyer) to discuss your specific situation. It’s better to examine these things on the front end than waiting until after the regulators start asking questions.
You may also visit the DOL’s compliance regs on this issue, here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm