A milestone: Fact Sheet #71

The US Department of Labor issued the Fact Sheet #71 this week: Internship Programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act. So what does it say? Same old, same old:

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

1. 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;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. 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;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

This fact sheet says nothing new. It is just a reminder of the law – a fact sheet, not a new legislation. Still, it is a milestone. This blog was started almost four years ago because there were no other resources on the web covering this issue. The law existed but what apparently ignored. Since then, many blogs and websites have been started, there’s been interesting movement in the UK and the mainstream media has started to take an interest in the issue. And now, State governments are cracking down on these scams. So this fact sheet from the federal government is a major shift in that it shows that the authorities are finally paying attention to a scandal hidden in plain sight for too long already. We can only hope that the effort will be sustained and will lead to a real change. Those who are annoyed by this blog may even start hoping that it will be suspended as it becomes useless.

There’s something interesting in the fine prints, at the end of the fact sheet:

The FLSA makes a special exception under certain circumstances for individuals who volunteer to perform services for a state or local government agency and for individuals who volunteer for humanitarian purposes for private non-profit food banks. WHD also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations.  Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible. WHD is reviewing the need for additional guidance on internships in the public and non-profit sectors.

I’ve never cared much for this exception for the public sector. I think that politicians and the government should lead by example and carving themselves an exception is no way to gain credibility in enforcing this law. I don’t yet see the rationale. Because the government is not-for-profit? Anyway, if someone knows, please share in the comments.

What’s interesting is that last sentence: they are reviewing the need for additional guidance. Could it be that the spirit of this exception will finally be explained?


2 Responses to A milestone: Fact Sheet #71

  1. Brian says:

    I totally agree with you – the government should lead by example! So they can have “free interns” (many of which are used for menial jobs and even harassed in many different ways)… but regular companies cannot? Because THEY make the law? So what’s good for them isn’t good for the rest of the country? Thank you for bringing to light the hypocrisy shown here. (And yes – let’s vote for politicians who practice what they preach!)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree. I once worked for a lab funded by a public university that had even married twenty-somethings perform menial and often risky work for no compensation, and they knew they could get away with it because they worked almost exclusively with state and Federal funding. If they have enough money to pay medical doctors to work on experiments, they have enough to pay research assistants.

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