In 1973, the US Department of Labor set guidelines about internships and apprenticeships in order to prevent employers from taking advantage of legal loopholes to undercompensate workers. State officials in California and several other states suspect that some companies are taking advantage of a sluggish job market for young professionals.
The Labor Department announced plans to crack down on companies that exploit young professionals, according to the New York Times. The Fair Labor Standards Act is complex, but it essentially says that if you are performing work that earns the company money, the company must compensate you.
Many young students and graduates are under the impression that an unpaid internship is a rite of passage that they must endure in order to gain employment. Regulators allege that abuse of these internships is widespread.
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy Leppink of the Department of Labor.
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Tip of the week: If you are interviewing for an internship, ask a lot of questions about the duties you will be performing. If they are similar to those performed by other employees, be aware that you are legally entitled to compensation. You might want to ask about the path to gaining employment with the company and how many of their interns receive a job offer.
Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys