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Labor Department Clarifies Internship Rules

April 22, 2010

pay slipThe U.S. Department of Labor released a statement yesterday that lists guidelines regarding unpaid internships.

According to the fact sheet, an unpaid internship must satisfy six requirements: It must be similar to training that would be given in an "educational environment"; it must be for the intern's benefit; it must not displace regular employees; it must not provide any "immediate advantage" to the employer; it should not necessarily entitle an intern to a regular job at the end; and it should take place with the understanding that the intern will not be paid.

The Labor Department's statement further explains that "the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer's actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual's educational experience." It notes that such a situation "often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit."

The guidelines come as a response to a proliferation of unpaid internships, which many say illegally takes advantage of young people struggling to build careers in a tough economy who are willing to work for free. The report is meant to help companies determine proper compensation for interns.

"There have been businesses that have taken advantage of students," acknowledged Michael True, director of the Internship Center at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, who was quoted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. But True also expressed concern that as a result of the new guidelines, "employers would just pull in the carpet and say, 'I'm sorry we're not going to offer those. This is just too big a risk for us.'"

Rachel Sabelko, a peer adviser at the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts Career Services, pointed out in the student publication, The Minnesota Daily, that there are definite advantages to receiving credit for internships rather than salaries: Unpaid positions can provide more flexible hours and responsibilities, and are far easier to obtain than paid internships.

Paul Timmins, director of CLACS, agreed. "A higher-paid experience where a student is doing less substantial work might not necessarily be better," he told The Minnesota Daily.


Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff

Sources:

"Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act," U.S. Department of Labor, April 2010

"Unpaid Internships Under Investigation," Minnesota Daily, April 22, 2010, Katherine Lymn

"U.S. Labor Department Releases New Rules for 'Educational' Internships," The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 21, 2010, Sara Lipka

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