Using (or Abusing) an Unpaid Intern

Dear Anita,

I run a small business on a shoestring. We are starting to get really busy but I still can’t afford to hire someone else. How can I go about getting an unpaid intern?

Interncarrying stacks of takeout coffeesDear “Budget Boss,”

College interns seem to be a dime a dozen in summer. In 2015, 63% of college grads with a bachelor’s degree had participated in internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Of those, about 61% were paid, and 39% unpaid. How can employers get away with not paying minimum wage? Many unpaid internships may be walking the line of legality. Basically, if an intern does any work that is useful to the employer, the internship may not meet the exception in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It’s easier for non-profits to utilize unpaid internships; they can simply classify the intern as a volunteer. But in the for-profit private sector, you must meet the employment exclusion or it is assumed the intern is, according to the FLSA, “suffered or permitted to work” for compensation.

Here are the six criteria from the Department of Labor to exempt an unpaid internship from being an employment agreement:

  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.

Unless you work closely with your local college or university to make sure the internship meets the educational requirement, chances are, you’ll have to pay your intern minimum wage. If you have fluctuating needs for additional help, consider hiring flexible personnel from a staffing company for the months, weeks, or even days that you need help.

Readers: How have you benefitted from an internship – paid or unpaid?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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In Case of Family Emergencies…

Hi, Anita:

My mother has recently become very ill and is soon going to be requiring full-time care. Are there any protections for me so I do not lose my job over this family emergency?

Dear, Fear of Being Fired:

Thank you for the question. Caring for a sick family member or parent can be a very challenging and time-consuming ordeal. Luckily, there are some protections and support for you in case an emergency strikes — namely, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Family_Emergencies_MWUnder FMLA, companies that have over 50 employees within 75 miles from the company are required to offer 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to take care of a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. It also covers the birth and care of an employee’s child or that employee’s adoption or foster care of a child.

In order for an employee to qualify, he/she must meet the following criteria:

  • Employee must be employed by the company for over 1 year.
  • At least 1,250 hours must have been worked in the last 12 months.

For those that may have a more complicated situation and need to care for someone who is not a legal or biological relation, you will need to prove that the person needing your care is in loco parentis with you. You might be asking yourself, what in the world is in loco parentis? According to the U.S. Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #28C, in loco parentis refers to a relationship in which a person has put himself/herself in the situation of a parent by assuming responsibility for a child to whom they are not legally or biologically connected. In other words, the person who needs your care is not your biological or legal parent but took care of you as if he/she was.Wheelchair

To prove your situation qualifies as in loco parentis, be prepared to provide the following information:

  • How old was the employee when in loco parentis care began?
  • How dependent was the employee on the person during childhood?
  • What was the extent to which duties commonly associated with parenthood was provided?
  • Did the person provide the employee with day-to-day responsibilities of care or financially supported them as a child?

I hope this helps shine some positive light on your situation and that it will help lessen your job-security concerns. As always, in these situations, consult your Human Resources representative to make sure you are all on the same page and to keep them informed on your situation. The more you know and can prepare, the better off you will be.

Readers, have you ever been in a similar situation? What recommendations do you have for Fear of Being Fired?

Here are some additional resources that are worth reading if you are faced with this situation:

And here is a quick video that spells out who is eligible for FMLA rights:

Have a question you would like to ask? Comment below or visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

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Hire Our Heroes!

Today, we celebrate the courageous actions and valor of the servicemen and women who served in our country’s armed forces. Let us take a moment to thank them for their service and sacrifice in the name of freedom this Veteran’s Day and every day.

After last week’s post offering advice to recently returned veterans, I have been inspired to take it one step further. Hiring managers, I am talking to you. The large pool of skilled and accomplished veterans is some of the top talent available. Many of you may ask what skills and traits military personnel have that are applicable to your businesses.

There are many!

Veterans hold specials sets of skills that are so engrained in their being, they have become second nature. Determination, dedication, and drive are some that come to mind — all three highly valued qualities that any business owner, supervisor, or hiring manager would hope to bring to their teams.  I could go on and on, but I will simply highlight the top 10 reasons why you should put our veterans on your payroll!

  1. Leadership – The most successful military personnel are incredible leaders. They have the traits and characteristics to inspire and motivate those around them. The ability to lead and get the best from the members of the team is a priceless attribute.
  2. Global experience – Veterans have experience in a wide variety of regions around the world. They are used to adapting to different cultures and experiencing life/business from other viewpoints.
  3. Exceptional learning curve – Upon entering the service, military personnel must quickly master a series of skills and competencies that are required for survival. This experience allows veterans to quickly adapt and accomplish tasks that may take others months to achieve.
  4. Teamwork – Individual and group productivity are required in the military setting. Servicemen and women are familiar with working together as a team and understand the importance of personal responsibility to one another and accountability in a group setting.
  5. Ability to deliver results under pressure – Resourcefulness and adhering to tight time schedules are common occurrences in the military. Veterans are trained to organize and tackle priorities no matter what difficulties they are faced with.
  6. Respect for authority and procedures – Military vets understand the importance of structure to an organization. They value and encourage a clear set of rules and regulations that help maintain and support strategy.
  7. Integrity – This is a characteristic that is hard to come by in today’s environment. Veterans understand the value of hard work, persistence, honor, and honesty. Many have been involved in missions that require high level of secrecy and security clearance.
  8. Adherence to safety standards – Safety is a major concern in the military with regard to fellow servicemen and civilians. Military personnel believe in maintaining a safe and healthy environment; protection of colleagues and equipment is a top priority.
  9. Working knowledge of technology and machinery – Veterans are trained to effectively use the latest computers, machinery, and technology to achieve goals and accomplish tasks. If they are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, I’ll bet my favorite set of knitting needles that they will be heads down until they can operate it with their eyes closed.
  10. Positive outlook – Even under the most dire circumstances and grim futures, military veterans have the intrinsic knowledge and skills to triumph over adversity. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, drive, determination, and the desire to achieve greatness and success for the team are of the highest priority.

As if all that weren’t enough…  thanks to the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers will receive tax credits for hiring veterans —  40% percent of the first $6,000 in wages (up to $2,400) for short-term unemployed vets and 40% of the first $14,000 in wages (up to $5,600) for vets who have been unemployed longer than 6 months.

Employers, what are you doing to recruit and hire military veterans? If you are uncertain of hiring veterans, what is your reasoning?

Here is a video sharing the many ways that you can help support our veterans.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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