Most businesses at one point or another come across the process of hiring interns. The decision to bring on an intern may be easy to take, but whether or not he should be paid is a matter that is more complicated. Many employers believe that as long as you label the person being hired as an intern that paying that intern is not required. Unfortunately, that is a misguided belief. The U.S. Department of Labor has a very specific test that must be done in order to meet the unpaid internship requirement.
The following six criteria should be looked to in determining whether a person qualifies as an unpaid intern:
(1) The internship, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
(2) The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
(3) The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
(4) The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
(5) The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
(6) The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for time spent in internship.
Determining whether or not a job qualifies as an unpaid internship is a balancing act of the above six factors. However, the Department of Labor does place an emphasis on the internship being educational. Therefore a job where an intern is performing productive work, such as filing or other clerical duties, would not qualify under the unpaid internship test because even though the intern may be learning a new skill or improving work habits, these activities are not considered educational. A situation where the intern receives college or university credit through an externship program is likely to meet these requirements. Additionally, if the training is something that can be used in multiple employment settings rather than being specific to this internship, it is likely to be considered educational training.
Employers should consider all of these factors before labeling a worker as an intern to avoid paying them for work. Making this distinction can be tricky and may require the help of an attorney. Rincker Law, PLLC is ready to help in ensuring that wage laws are followed when hiring interns at your business.