I recently noted growing murmers that America’s legion of unpaid interns are being exploited. On Wednesday, the U.S. Dept. of Labor issued a “fact sheet” designed to clarify “whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide.”
As I read this document, the short answer is: Always.
The key provision relates to the duties interns perform. A longstanding Labor Dept. rule holds that employer must derive “no immediate advantage from the activies of the intern.” The new document expands on this, specifying that unpaid interns shouldn’t “perform the routine work of the business on a regular and recurring basis,” and should not in fact be “performing productive work.”
Instead, the employer should provide “job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close of regular employees.” And, ideally, “the intern performs no or minimal work.”
Does that sound like any internship you have ever been aware of? Me neither.
The document doesn’t mention anything about enforcement. Presumably, companies won’t change their practices until the first big penalty gets imposed. When or if it comes down, I will report back to you.