Unpaid internships possibly illegal
Students and new graduates will soon flood workplaces for summer internships. About half of them will be unpaid.
Employers increasingly are using internships to decide if they want to offer “permanent” jobs to candidates. A trial period in itself isn't wrong, but there's mounting concern that many unpaid internships are illegal.
Regulators say violations of labor law are widespread but hard to stop. Interns eager to get job offers aren't likely to complain. And the fine points of wage and hour law aren't clear to most workers and to many employers.
The Labor Department warns for-profit employers that it's difficult to have unpaid internships and comply with the law. Nonprofit employers have wider discretion, because people can do volunteer work.
Broadly, if the intern gets more value from the internship than the employer gets from having free labor, then the internship can be unpaid. For example, if a student gets academic credit for the internship, an unpaid arrangement likely is OK with regulators.
But if the intern's work gives “immediate advantage” to the employer or the employer is the “primary beneficiary” of the intern's work, then courts have said the intern should be paid at least minimum wage and be covered by all rights and protections of federal wage and hour law.
The Labor Department has six rules for qualified unpaid internships. They must give training similar to that given in academic or vocational schools; mustn't displace existing employees; must give prime benefit to the intern; must give no immediate advantage to the employer, whose operations actually may be impeded; don't entitle the intern to a future job; and are unpaid according to mutual understanding.
Pay isn't the only issue. Vigilance is needed because unpaid interns aren't protected by anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws and other workplace rights.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Drillers bid millions for oil, gas beneath West Virginia public lands
- MSA Safety products in demand to protect workers in dangerous jobs
- Emergency room visits decline as navigators steer patients to proper medical care
- U.S. Steel warns it may lay off almost 2,000 workers in Alabama, Texas
- Energy companies vie for experienced workers with skills in high demand
- Drops in gasoline prices won’t likely last, analysts say
- Energy industry says it’s on top of methane leaks, but environmentalists want oversight
- Chevron laying off 162 workers from Moon-based unit
- Milk industry swats back at ‘anti-dairy’ trend
- W.Pa.’s sluggish economic growth in cellar
- U.S. Steel plans to close two plants affecting 545 workers