Summer Interns: Free Labor Risky?

As summer approaches, companies all over are accepting applications from student interns who are eager for some work experience, even if they have to work for free.  The Us Department of Labor has been increasingly scrutinizing the unpaid internship classification for the past several years.  How does a manager or business owner know when it is time to pay their intern or risk violating the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA)?
The following guidelines are published by the Department of Labor – Wage and Hour Division as a barometer of determining whether the position you are offering should be for a paid or unpaid intern.
Unpaid Interns – Department of Labor’s Six Criteria for Classification of Interns or Trainees (unpaid)

  1. The intern receives training that is comparable to training received in an educational environment.
  2. The internship is essentially only for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace any permanent employees but instead works under the very close supervision of the existing staff.
  4. The employer is provided with no immediate advantage with employing the intern, and operations may be impeded in some instances by necessary training.
  5. The intern is not entitled to a job at the completion of the internship.
  6. Both the employer and intern are aware that the intern is not entitled to any wages for the time spent during the position.

Paid Interns

  • If the employer receives an immediate benefit of the intern, the intern should be paid at least minimum wage.
  • If an intern is a recent graduate or otherwise not enrolled in a degree-seeking program, it is likely they should be paid in accordance with FLSA requirements.
  • If an intern replaces a position that would have previously been a paid employee position.
  • If the addition of an intern expedites the employer’s business operations.

It serves a company well, to develop an internship program in conjunction with local universities to ensure that quality education and experience program is put into place.  This often will eliminate any risk of violating FLSA laws and provide the intern with a benefiting experience.
If you are an intern at the University of Florida, Florida State University, Santa Fa College, University of North Florida, or the University of Central Florida and believe you are a victim of intern exploitation by a company, our experienced attorneys may be able to help.  You may be entitled to compensation if you found that you were misclassified as an intern and were performing employee-level work.  PLEASE CALL (352) 505-8900 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION.


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