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Home · Guides · Business Bluster - Fewer or Better Interns Now That They Must be Paid?

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Business Bluster - Fewer or Better Interns Now That They Must be Paid?

For years, companies and universities have had a comfortable relationship with supplying education and free labor in the form of internships. The company benefitted by grooming a potential candidate for a job in the organization upon graduation while the university gives credits towards the student's requirements. However, a recent ruling by a federal district judge in Manhattan has potentially brought all of this crashing down. The ruling clarifies the definition of an intern by following a six-point test supplied by the Department of Labor. If any one of the six points is violated by the company hosting the intern, the intern must be paid an hourly wage.

The lawsuits began when interns working on the film "Black Swan" felt that they were treated as if they were employees instead of interns. Jobs performed by the interns included answering phones, making travel arrangements for paid employees, took out garbage and put together office furniture. Normally paid employees were set to these tasks, but they were given to the interns instead. An internship is supposed to be an educational experience as opposed to doing tasks that benefit the paid employees of the production. 

Judge Pauley, the presiding judge in the case, felt that the interns were not performing duties that were of an educational nature. He also stated that academic credit for the labor is of little importance when determining if interns should be paid or not. In short, Judge Pauley found that the production company behind "Black Swan" didn't take pains to treat the interns as anything other than unpaid labor.

While this is not necessarily the end of the saga, it does send a clear message to employers about how they should handle their interns. Employers are most likely going to respond by cutting back on how many interns they take so as to not fall afoul of the recent ruling, if they take any at all. The question remains if companies should be more selective in their choice of interns, or if it's just better to reduce the number accepted altogether.

Vocational experience There is no one clear answer about hiring better or fewer interns. This is an issue that is best resolved by taking a look at the needs of the business. In the meantime, the company needs to take a good, hard look at the internship program on offer. If it goes beyond being an educational experience for the student, it most likely is going to fall afoul of the law as it currently stands. An internship is not supposed to be anything other than a vocational experience for the student, and the student is not supposed to take the place of a paid employee whether they are attending a traditional college or taking online business courses, internships are for trying out a vocation.

Alternatively, a business can take the option of taking on only the best and brightest of the available interns to justify their pay if their duties are that of a regular employee, or the internship program can be shut down entirely. It all comes down to what makes the most sense.

24.06.2013. 18:06


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