We’re approaching the season here at TIME of fresh young faces roaming the corridors, expressions eager and unlined with worry or fatigue, eyes bright, tails busy. Yes, tis the season of summer interns. Time Inc. pays its interns—quite handsomely, from what I hear. But a lot of businesses don’t. Instead they dangle college credit or simply the chance to apprentice in an exciting field.
I always equated unpaid internships with slave labor. But Fisher & Phillips, the employment law firm, explains otherwise:
Legally, paid interns can be saddled with intern-dreading grunt work, but unpaid interns must benefit educationally from the experience under rules set forth by the Department of Labor (DOL).
See, if you pay your interns, you can get away with dumping them with the photocopying and the donut-purchasing and the reorganizing of eight years of customer receipts. But labor laws kick in if they’re unpaid. Turns out there’s a six-part legal test for employers to measure their intern program compliance. Would-be employers of free interns need to ask themselves:
1. Is the training similar to that which would have been given in a vocational school?
2. Is the training primarily for the benefit of the intern?
3. Does the intern displace regular employees or work under their close direction?
4. Does the company derive immediate advantages from the activities of the intern or are operations impeded?
5. Is the intern necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training program?
6. Does the company and interns understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training?
So, students: think twice about those internship offers. The one with no pay might turn out to be the better deal—so long as your boss know the law. Might want to slip them a copy of this post.