Employers, Beware! It’s Intern Season!

Internships are a great way for college students to get credit and real-life experience in their field. Employers benefit from hiring interns because they get to act as a mentor as well as have some extra help around the office for the summer. But employers must keep a certain standard of practice when it comes to hiring and maintaining interns.

Employees who perform work must be paid wages unless they qualify as an intern. In January of 2018, the Department of Labor adopted a primary beneficiary test to determine if an internship can be “unpaid.”  If the employer is the “primary beneficiary”, the intern must be paid.  If the intern is the “primary beneficiary” then he or she may be unpaid.

The primary beneficiary test factors include: 

  • the extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation;
  • the extent to which the internship provides training that would be like that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by an educational institution;
  • the extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit;
  • the extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar;
  • the extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning;
  •  the extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern;
  • and the extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

If a student intern is just doing menial tasks and filing documents, the intern must be paid minimum wage and time and a half for all time worked over forty hours in a workweek. Employers need to design meaningful and educational internship programs that benefit both the business and the intern.

If you have any questions about internships and employment contracts, please give us a call. Our experienced employment law attorneys have had countless success serving businesses in all sorts of industries.