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June 2017 Archives

Questions to be answered regarding unpaid internships

During the summer, it is fairly common for companies to offer internships to high school and college students. Students get valuable experience with a company that improves their job prospects after they graduate, and employers get an opportunity to audition prospective employees.

While some internships come with a fair wage, others are unpaid. Given state and federal employment laws, are unpaid internships legal?

The quick answer is: it depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, unpaid internships may comply with state and federal wage and hour laws if they satisfy certain criteria.  These rules are in place so that employers do circumvent federal minimum wage laws by simply naming seasonal temporary employees "interns." This post will highlight a few of the factors the U.S. Department of Labor may use to determine if an unpaid internship properly follows federal law. 

Whether the experience supplements classroom - An unpaid internship must utilize or expand upon training or education previously provided in a classroom environment. This may mean that a particular class must have been completed as a prerequisite to the internship.

The intern must benefit from the job - In the same vein, the intern usually receives some type of academic credit that will be used to satisfy graduation requirements.  

Regular employees can still work - Permanent employees must not be displaced by unpaid interns, and any interns working on a temporary basis must be supervised by an existing, permanent employee.

If you are putting together a new internship program or have accepted students into one and have questions about proper compensation, an experienced employment law attorney can advise you.

Why are employers investigated by the WHD?

As an employer, you may have all sorts of concerns which arise on a daily basis. For example, you could be worried about company growth or may be having difficulty finding the right employees. However, you may be especially stressed out if you are investigated by the Wage and Hour Division. In Pittsburgh, and in other parts of Pennsylvania, it is vital to realize some of the reasons why employers are investigated by the WHD.

According to the Department of Labor, an employer may be investigated by the Wage and Hour division because an employee filed a complaint. However, there are other factors that can lead to an employer being investigated. Sometimes, the WHD will look into businesses located in a certain location, while others may be investigated as a result of their industry. Usually, the Wage and Hour Division does not reveal why they investigated an employer.

If you have been investigated by the WHD, or if an employee has threatened that they will file a complaint and you are afraid that your business will be investigated, many things may be going through your mind. However, it is vital to try and stay calm during this situation and look for the correct course of action. Moreover, it is essential to avoid investigations altogether by making sure that the workplace is free of wage and hour violations, as well as other violations of employment law.

You should also remember that this write-up is offered for general information and does not represent an alternative to legal help.

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