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View Diary: Unpaid Internships (201 comments)

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  •  Are you saying because it happens in (7+ / 0-)

    every field you have worked in that it is right? Although student teaching for half a year could conceivably be a rightful internship, for anything else the participant should be paid at least minimum wage.

    •  I'm not saying it's right or wrong just that it is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plumbobb, erush1345

      legal in certain circumstances.  As I am a professor now, I can tell you that students learn more during an internship than they ever will by the books, as far as their trade is concerned.  Our school has plenty of internship programs and I know of none that the intern is paid.

      As far as being paid, the candidate usually receives valuable resume boosters, written references and usually job offers at the end.  The purpose of having the internship unpaid is so that we actually have hosting companies, schools, hospitals that will accept interns and follow all the guidelines required of them for a semester at a time.  

      There are multiple requirements of the company hosting the interns.  They are required to do evaluations, allow students to complete jobs and lessons asked of them by their campus professors, the hosting company has to allow the student to work in multiple areas and allow them to fully participate in using equipment, sitting in on meeting etc.  The hosting company has to allow professors to come into the premises at any time and grade a student or speak with key people to get feedback for their own paperwork.  The companies often have to pay insurance on the student while they are there; some require the hosting company to provide an unpaid mentor who will also be the intern's personal go to person for months on end.  Sometimes the mentor must have an advanced degree to even qualify...they are also not paid for the added burden of teaching an intern.  The sponsors of the intern are providing a senior student incredible knowledge in their field that you just can't get in a classroom.  Thus, the student might not be paid,  but in the end the benefit is real and valuable. Sometimes, you have to look past the 8 dollars and hour and see what you might get in exchange for a semester or two of free labor.

      •  but that's not what this diary is about (11+ / 0-)

        Internships that meet the legal requirements are fine. I did several unpaid internships working for nonprofit charities and advocacy groups during and after grad school. I imagine most people here have no problem with that.

        The problem is when for-profit companies try to subvert U.S. law and drive down the price of labor by exploiting ignorance of labor laws. That is what is happening here, and it's a massive problem that not only screws over students but also experienced workers who are being forced to compete with illegal labor.

        •  Illegal labor is just that...illegal labor. I (4+ / 0-)

          despise it in all areas and all circumstances.  

          Internships, however, are not illegal if the guidelines below are followed,  per the  Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act

          Internships are legal as long as all 6 of the guidelines are followed:

          1.    The training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school and in a general likewise manner.

          2.    The training is for the benefit of the intern.

          3.    The intern does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.

          4.    The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.

          5.    The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.

          6.    The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

          This is what makes an internship legal, under those circumstances.   These rules apply to even those who seek an internship after they have graduated, so they do not necessarily have to be students anymore.

            The internship can be no longer than 12 months, regardless even this is a student we are talking about or someone already graduated.

      •  My experience with internships managed by (6+ / 0-)

        academic institutions (from the end of the employer, by the way) is that they were non-bogus. Typically, the institution had quite strict requirements from employers that ensured that the employers met all of the Department of Labor qualifications:

        The Labor Department's six criteria for a legal unpaid internship are:

            The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
            The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
            The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
            The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
            The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
            The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

        At the heart of the rules above are two ideas: The internship environment must be similar to an educational environment, and the intern - not the employer - should be the primary beneficiary of the experience. Interns should be gaining skills that they can use in multiple workplace environments, and the employer shouldn't be reliant upon their labor. Although some menial work may be part of the experience, interns should not be regularly conducting routine business. The Labor Department is also very clear that while clerical skills may be applicable to other jobs, any productive labor should be paid under minimum wage laws.

        Other key issues include supervision and job entitlement. Interns may shadow employees, but if an intern works in the stead of another employee, they should be paid. Job entitlement refers to both the duration of the internship and its relationship to employment. The length of an internship should be determined before it begins, and the internship should not be considered a trial period for permanent employment.

      •  to reiterate an important point in the diary (9+ / 0-)

        Unpaid internships are fine (and legal) as long as they don't displace an employee (or potential employee) in a paid position.

        The whole point of this law is to protect the integrity of the labor market for everyone, not just students.

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