The title says it all: “Don’t use summer interns as substitute workers” (MSNBC, May 30th, 2007). I have to keep myself from quoting the whole article, but here are my favorites.
As in any good article, the whole point is in the first paragraph:
Across the country, as millions of high school and college students spend the summer working as interns at small businesses, company owners should be aware that treating these young people as unpaid workers could run them afoul of federal and state labor authorities.
And here’s what an employer should do to remain within the limits of the law:
“You must pay at least minimum wage for all hours actually worked” and overtime when applicable, [Marc Zimmerman, a labor and employment attorney with the law firm Philips Nizer LLP in New York] said.
Sounds like any employee, isn’t it? Here is the main difference with an intern. And no, it’s not the paycheck.
No. 4 is probably the acid test: “An employer has no immediate advantage from the activities” of the intern, Zimmerman said.
How about being caught for violating human rights?
Violating the FLSA can subject a small business to steep fines and penalties. A company can also leave itself open to federal and state human rights laws violations if an intern is not paid for work and should be, Zimmerman said.
And this one is for those who think that there’s no devil in their details:
But, Zimmerman warned, you need to keep the government’s requirements in mind as you put the internship together. No matter what your intent is, the government looking at the situation might say otherwise.
It’s a good thing the message is out as the summer begins. Let’s hope the Associated Press story gets picked elsewhere. And if it doesn’t, I’ll resort to saying “The media are conservative!”