The Legal Treatment Of Interns

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Over the past five years there have been major developments in the legal treatment of interns which have driven significant changes in the way companies approach internship programs. In 2010, the Department of Labor issued Fact Sheet #71, which provided guidelines as to the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to internships. Most notable was the requirement that a sponsor of an unpaid internship may derive “no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern” (United Stated Department of Labor, 2010). These standards were subsequently adopted by courts in litigation over unfair labor practices in internship programs. According to Lorenz & Thomas (2015), there is widespread opinion that this means “an unpaid intern cannot…show more content…
Internships can no longer be considered a laissez-faire practice. The practical effect is that there is little meaningful distinction in today’s environment between an intern who performs productive work, and an employee. These external legal factors suggest that internships in the future may be, in part, a way of managing what Ivancevic, Konopaske, & Matteson refer to as the “psychological contract” (Ivancevich, Konopaske, & Matteson, 2014, p. 133). In other words, interns may be treated as employees in the current legal environment, but remain interns for the purposes of employer/employee expectations as to things like long term employment prospects and compensation. Employers can no longer view interns as a source of free labor. Employers must be prepared to commit more resources to their internship programs if they want to keep them, without being sued. At the same time, employers can use internship programs as a way of recruiting and training potential employees without the same level of commitment as full-time employees. Even so, the increased risk and resource requirements attached to internship programs are likely to lead to greater employer expectations as to intern performance. Based on this analysis of the external trends in internship program practices, any internship program should be fully committed to complying with all worker protection and labor laws. Companies should clearly communicate their expectations to prospective
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