Labor Department Investigates Whether Unpaid Internships Violate Wage and Hour Laws
April 7, 2010
Our California Employment and Labor Lawyers have been following the hot topic in employment news this week about the Labor Department's crack down on unpaid internships, investigating employers who take advantage of interns for whom paid jobs are difficult to find--violating wage and hour laws in states across the country including California, Oregon, and New York.
Last year, M. Patricia Smith, during her term as New York's labor commissioner investigated several firms and their internship programs, to determine whether the internships violated wage and hour laws. Smith is now acting as a top law enforcement official for the federal Labor Department's wage and hour division, and is taking this wage and hour investigation nationwide.
Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the Labor Department's wage and hour division claimed that there are not many options for a for-profit employer to offer an unpaid internship and still comply with wage and hour laws. Although internships in the world of arts and non-profits are common, unpaid internships in the for-profit world can lead to exploitation and wage and hour law violations.
Leppink claimed that in order for an internship to be unpaid, employers must comply with the six federal legal criteria. Leppink stated that many employers still fail to pay interns, even when their internships fail to comply with these six federally mandated legal criteria to achieve an unpaid internship status.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in 2008, 50 percent of students who had recently graduated had internships, an increase of 17 percent from 1992. The New York Times estimates that out of the hundreds and thousands of students with internships every year, one quarter to half of these internships are paid. The unpaid internships are reportedly growing rapidly, as employers are trying to decrease employment costs, and students are eager to gain valuable job experience that could lead to future paying jobs.
The U.S. Department of Labor is now focusing on investigating firms that do not pay interns properly for their work, and are also attempting to implement change, by educating students, colleges, and companies on the legal issues regarding internships and wage and hour law violations.
Howard Law, PC is committed to defending individuals who have experienced a violation of wage and hours laws in Los Angeles County, Orange County and throughout Southern California. Contact our Anaheim-based Labor & Employment Attorneys today, for a free consultation about your rights.
The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not, The New York Times, April 2, 2010
Watch Out: That Unpaid Intern Could Cost You, Inc., April 6, 2010
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