The internship has become an intricate part of the college and post-college experience these days. Many students, both as undergraduates and graduates, find that internships can very well serve as an entrée into a potential job or further develop a particular career path. But, if you are a for-profit business, the continued use of such free assistance has to comply with the U.S.Department of Labor guidelines of 2010. In June of this year, a United States District Judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group, Inc. violated federal and state labor laws when they didn't pay two interns who filled roles on movie sets, such as production assistants, secretaries, and janitors. The facts revealed that the interns were performing tasks outside of their internship descriptions and providing labor for which they received no compensation.
Central to the decision and what is most important to corporate human resources departments is the six-point guideline issued by the Department of Labor in 2010 and reinforced in this decision that set out whether an intern must be paid minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. All six of these criteria MUST be met for an unpaid internship to be legal and they are as follows:
A. The internship must be similar to the training the intern would receive in school. For example, an intern who is in environmental science and hired to work in that area should not be, as part of his or her internship, assigned the job of basic janitorial work. Goes without saying but many employers seek to take advantage of free labor such as interns provide often forcing them to do tasks that are not within the scope of the precise internship.
B. The internship experience should be to the intern's benefit. Getting back to the previous example, janitorial work and environmental science do not mesh together and are clearly not in keeping with providing the intern with a benefit for free labor.
C. The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close staff supervision. Again, not making the intern work in a capacity outside of his or her area substitute for another employee.
D. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern's activities and occasionally its operations may be impeded.
E. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job after the internship and
F. The employer and intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages. Management should be reminded to have an internship agreement ready for each intern to cover all such points, but particularly the issue that no wages are to be expected and that there is, by extension, no contractual relationship of any kind with the intern. Additionally, make sure that the agreement contains language to the extent that the intern understands that he or she is not entitled to a job after the internship. A job description would be of assistance as well.
For further information, contact David Katz at the Katz Law Group, P.C. at 508-480-8202.