There is No Excuse for this Common Practice

No one likes excuses right? That’s what we always hear – no excuse is legitimate, just take responsibility for doing/not-doing something. If that’s the case why won’t for-profit organizations take responsibility for not paying their interns? Non-profit entities and charities DO have a legitimate excuse (see, excuses do exist) in that all revenue goes toward the central mission and operations. And the services non-profits provide can mean life or death for those they serve.

But private businesses have no such legitimate excuse; so again, I’ll ask – why are they not paying their interns? This issue is gaining steam as the unpaid internship has grown in popularity and necessity over the last 20 years. But since the Great Recession began young people have pushed this issue onto the public agenda. Unpaid internships are a luxury that more and more millennials can’t afford – and that’s what they are, a luxury.

Only those privileged enough with resources can afford to take on these unpaid internships. Many young people are going to school while working full-time, or part-time, and adding an unpaid internship is just not feasible for them.

The Department of Labor has a six-point checklist that employers (and interns alike) can use to  determine whether an unpaid internship is legal.

• The internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment (and not merely on-the-job training that employees receive).

The internship experience is for the intern’s benefit.

• The intern does not displace regular employees but is closely supervised by staff.

• The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern (and on occasion the intern may actually impede operations).

• The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job following the internship.

• The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages during the internship.

The second point is critical. Internships are supposed to be learning experiences for the intern, where they can learn skills similar to what they would receive in a classroom setting. The question businesses need to ask themselves is how do they design an internship program where interns will gain knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to the industry, not how interns can benefit the bottom-line of their business.

If an intern is doing work you’d typically need to hire someone to do, then you’re doing it wrong. Now that you know, quit the excuses and fulfill your responsibilities.

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