Things to consider when considering interns

Here’s a cheery thought for a Monday morning as you struggle to wake up after being needlessly deprived of an extra hour of sleep. According to Federal Labor law, an employee is someone who an employer “suffer[s]” or “permit[s]” to work (29 USC 203 (1)).

So what does that make the lowly intern? The core legal question is under what circumstances must an unpaid intern be properly classified as an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and paid for his or her services? The Obama Administration’s Department of Labor and some high-profile lawsuits involving some high-profile media companies scared the bageebees out of many employees who simply decided that having an unpaid college student around for the summer time wasn’t worth the legal risk. Plus, I know based on some of the phone conversations I have eavesdropped on involving credit unions and our HR Consultant, some credit unions have wanted to make extra sure that their intern truly is an intern. As someone who believes that a well-structured internship can be an enormous benefit to young people who ideally learn how to conduct themselves in an office and get a sense of the profession they think they are interested in getting involved with, I think the legal complexity around interns is another example of regulation run amuck.


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