With the end of the school year just weeks away, this is the perfect time to think about hiring your summer interns. Intern programs can be beneficial for both the intern and the employer, and it’s important to be aware of your legal responsibilities.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires for-profit employers to pay employees for their services; however, interns and students may not be considered employees. As of 2018, the DOL employs the “primary beneficiary test” to determine the difference. The test encompasses seven factors, including whether the both parties understand there is no expectation of compensation, the extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education, and others. For the complete list of factors, see the DOL Fact Sheet.
If the primary beneficiary test reveals that the intern is actually an employee, he or she is entitled to both compensation and overtime pay under the FLSA.
When hiring students under age 18 as interns (paid or unpaid), you must comply with Texas Child Labor Laws, which entail restrictions on hours of employment and permitted and prohibited occupations for specific age groups.
Federal child labor laws may also apply; for more information, consult the DOL Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Child Labor Rules Advisor.
Once the individual reaches age 18, child labor laws no longer apply.
Because interns are not considered employees, internships may sometimes be abused by both the intern and the employer. Interns may think that policies regarding attendance, dress code, workplace conduct, confidentiality, and other issues do not apply to them and may therefore take undue liberties. On the other side of the issue, supervisors may view interns as not being entitled to the same rights as paid employees, which could lead to unfortunate results. As the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) advises, “Employers should maintain order in their operations—and internships should be no exception. Periodic meetings between HR and interns and between HR and supervisors can help prevent inappropriate conduct or stop it before it gets out of hand.”
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