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  • Writer's pictureS. Anne Marie Archer

Internships: What you should know before you accept that internship for the Summer

Updated: Mar 24

Spring is almost here and as such the recruitment period for what I call “Slave Season” is upon us? What is Slave season? The summer intern season. Spring is the time when employers actively recruit for their free labor for the summer. They call them internships but for many it’s just a way to get free college educated labor for the summer and often Fall.

In this blog post I explain what internships are and how to ensure you are not exploited by your employer and that they are complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA during your internship.

An internship is a temporary position offered by a company to a student or recent graduate, typically lasting for a few months, in which the intern gains practical experience in a particular field or industry. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and may be part-time or full-time.

Here are five bullet points that interns should look out for to ensure their employer is in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

1. The internship should primarily benefit the intern and not the employer. 2. The intern should receive training that is similar to what they would receive in an educational environment. 3. The intern should not displace regular employees and should work under close supervision. 4. The employer should not derive immediate advantage from the intern's work, and in some cases may actually be impeded by the intern's activities. 5. The intern should not be guaranteed a job at the end of the internship.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and child labor standards for employees in the United States. The FLSA also governs internships, and sets out certain criteria that must be met for an internship to be considered legal.

  1. The internship must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.

  2. The internship must be for the benefit of the intern.

  3. The intern must not displace regular employees, but instead should work under close supervision.

  4. The employer must derive no immediate advantage from the intern's activities, and may in fact be impeded by them.

  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship.

  6. Both the intern and the employer must understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Interns can work for a maximum of 40 hours per week, to avoid running afoul of the FLSA. Any hours worked beyond this threshold may be considered overtime, and must be compensated at a rate of at least one and a half times the regular hourly rate.

Interns can be provided with stipends and allowances, as long as these payments are not tied to the amount or quality of work performed. Stipends and allowances are typically provided to help cover the costs of living, transportation, and other expenses associated with the internship. However, interns cannot be paid less than minimum wage for the work they perform, and any stipend or allowance must be clearly separate from any wages paid.

The time to look for a paid internship is NOW but make sure you are going to be more than just free or low wage labor. Make sure you are going to get what you need out of the intern experience.

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