Redefining the Internship in the Face of Legal Realities and Economic Valuations
Lorenz, Magdalena; Thomas, Wade L.
[Excerpt] College internship programs have received considerable attention in the past four years since the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DoL”) issued a fact sheet aimed at educating employers and schools about the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”) to such programs. Highly publicized law suits followed. The prevailing view that seems to be emerging is that an intern, who works alongside paid employees and performs productive work for an employer, should be treated as an employee and paid at least the applicable minimum wage. While the debate is far from being settled, one thing is clear today: college credit is not an alternative to a paycheck, not only from an economic, but also from a legal perspective. Some employers have forced interns to register for college credit, whether the student needed the credit for graduation or not, believing that registration for credit exempted the intern from the reach of the FLSA. Such practice forced some students not only to work without wages but also to pay significant tuition costs for the privilege of working. Second circuit courts have ruled that whether college credit is granted or not should be between the student and the college and does not have much bearing on the employer’s compliance with employment laws.
HR Review; Human Resources; Internships; FLSA; Minimum Wage; Training
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