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Unpaid Internships and Volunteering Full of Pitfalls

July 9, 2010

Unpaid Internships, and Volunteering are very popular right now.  Interns want to gain some valuable experience in addition to their studies, and Volunteers will hope their efforts get noticed by a potential Employer.  Unfortunately, some Employers are taking advantage of this situation.  This scenario is full of pitfalls, and should be corrected before being forced to.

It’s Summer time, and that means unpaid Internships are being coveted by financially strapped Students looking to gain experience.  Unfortunately, it’s also time for some Companies not to pay them for their time, and efforts.  This Recession took hold, and many Companies (that once compensated their Interns) now offer only unpaid Programs, and are suggesting that they should just be grateful. [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

Attorneys have cautioned that Employers need to know there are federal labor rules that apply to Interns, as well as Volunteers.  If you are a Business, and you employ Staff to make a product, and/or service to make a profit, you must compensate your Staff.  Federal law dictates that Interns MUST BE paid, unless their work is almost exclusively educational in nature, AND they ARE NOT doing work paid employees would otherwise do.  I don’t know about you, but most of the Interns I’ve seen in action, are very ambitious, may take a little longer explanation than normal, but do the very same job, that other staff perform.

“On its face, the idea of having an unpaid Intern sounds like a great opportunity for Employers.  However, the problem is that unless the Employer is a Nonprofit, such an arrangement will very likely violate the federal statute called the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said John Egbert, head of the employment practice group at Phoenix-based law firm Jennings Strouss & Salmon PLC.

Do you know of any Interns, and/or Volunteers being taken advantage of?

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