Is Your Internship Program Legal?

It might feel cold outside, but summer is right around the corner. As such, depending upon the nature of your business, you may be receiving intern requests from college students, or may be considering bringing on an intern for the summer.

In the past, this seemed simple enough. An intern could provide a way to get a little more work done with little to no cost. Simple, easy and (potentially) free? Perfect fit? Right?

Maybe not.

Internships are protected under labor and employment laws and are subject to certain criteria. In fact, most unpaid internships are illegal due to the fact that they violate the minimum wage law, and sometimes certain overtime laws as well. Because of this, as an employer, you need to understand what your requirements are in order to protect your business when hiring an intern.

Two Points to Remember

To bring on an unpaid intern, the following two requirements must be met.

First, the intern cannot displace a regular employee. If this could be a role your company would fill with a paid employee, the internship cannot be unpaid. Additionally, the intern must work under the close supervision of existing staff members.

Second, as an employer, you cannot derive an immediate advantage from the assignments and activities completed by the intern.

Does Your Internship Pass the Test?

If your internship doesn’t stand up to the above points, that’s okay. To protect your program, you can take the following steps.

  • Pay minimum wage. This could still save on the costs of bringing on a salaried employee.
  • Set and stick to a schedule. To avoid breaking employment laws and possible health care laws, set a schedule for your intern. If there’s overtime required, pay for it. Be careful assigning any projects that must be completed after hours; if they are necessary, compensate accordingly.
  • Put your agreement in writing. Be clear about the activities you will require of your intern along with hours and any other expectations.

Wondering if your summer internship program meets all requirements without violating any labor and employment laws and regulations? Contact an experienced business law attorney like Michael Hynum with Hynum Law in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

We look forward to answering any questions you may have and to working with you going forward. Set up a consultation today.