Make the Most
Out of Interns
There may be no such thing as a free
lunch, but there is free or low-cost help.
students looking for internships, there might be a pool of
eager and talented people who are willing to work at your
company for free or minimum wage ó at least for a
These arrangements can benefit both sides: Your
company gets help and the interns learn valuable new skills.
But make sure you comply with all the federal and state laws
relating to interns. In some cases, companies decide the free
lunch isn't worth it and opt to pay interns the minimum wage
to avoid legal liability.
It takes common-sense steps
to help ensure the intern experience is successful:
Interview. Donít skip a formal interview ó
if you donít have the time, have a trusted assistant do it.
Face time helps determine if a candidate is right for the
Take the usual steps. Even if a
prospective intern is impressive in an interview, ask for a
resume and references. Inquire about criminal convictions
and serious motor vehicle violations. Get permission for a
Outline the job. Describe the duties, the
training that will be provided, the hours and who will
supervise the volunteer.
Watch the law. Make sure your intern isnít
replacing an employee and doesnít hinder opportunities for
prospective employees. The federal Fair Labor Standards
Act (FLSA) bans both practices and many states impose
additional restrictions. Regular volunteers are exempt from
the FLSA, which regulates minimum wage and maximum work
hours, among other things.
The FLSA applies to businesses with two or more employees
grossing more than $500,000 yearly but it can also apply in
other situations. Among its provisions:
1. An intern must be the
main beneficiary of the volunteer service, by picking up
benefits such as valuable experience or college credits. The
training should be a learning experience for the
If the employer gets an "immediate advantage"
from the arrangement, the intern must be paid minimum wage.
The type of business is important. Public
service, charitable, religious or humanitarian organizations
have an easier time using volunteers under the law. For-profit
companies are more restricted because the FLSA is designed to
protect the "employer-employee" relationship.
4. There can't be productivity
requirements, an expectation of payment, or the promise of a
job. It's prudent to put this in writing before taking on an
A potential red flag: Volunteers are not
typically covered by Worker's Compensation Insurance, so an
injured intern could sue your company for medical bills and
damages. Some organizations decide to avoid this potential
liability by putting volunteers on the payroll at minimum
Interns can be among your most enthusiastic
staff members and some of them might return in a paid capacity
someday. In addition, they can serve as a walking
advertisement for your company and a magnet for future
students from local schools. Just make sure you keep your
expectations realistic ó few 19-year-olds have the judgment of
35-year-olds. And be careful to follow applicable laws when
bringing in interns. Consult with us at (856) 665-2121 more