Is Your Unpaid Intern Legit?

Laura E. O’Donnell brings up a lot of interesting points in her article, “Is Your Unpaid Intern Legit?” O’Donnell explains that employers should protect themselves by increasing their understanding on the requirements created by the Department of Labor on how to structure internships and what classifies an employee as a “trainee”. She neglects to provide specific requirements she is referring to as well as further suggestions on how corporations should go about acquiring more information. Rather, she claims that employers need to remember the basic rule; to pay all employees both minimum wage and over-time pay according to the FLSA laws. O’Donnell criticizes the Department of Labor for its “narrow exception” to considering student interns who qualify as trainees but not requiring employers to pay them. It seems evident that the widespread issue of unpaid intern exploitation cannot be solely attributed to the definitions set forth by the Department of Labor. 

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The author proceeds to provide data from former unpaid interns and information regarding the recent increase in court cases. While it is valuable to learn the responsibilities as well as average hours per week the unpaid interns worked, there is no additional information provided about the plaintiffs. It is important to understand how the unpaid internship positions effected the lives of the interns, both during and after working for the company. Were any of the unpaid internships considered beneficial, or were they all categorized as exploitative to some degree? It would also be interesting to learn why interns initially took on the positions and whether their expectations were not fulfilled, met or surpassed.
Another important concept to take away from “Is Your Unpaid Intern Legit?” is what companies should do to avoid being sued for intern exploitation. According to the author, the Department of Labor is more likely to approve employees as trainees if their internship is modeled after a course given in a vocational school. The DOL also examines how likely an unpaid intern is to receive a job offer in that particular career field after completing the internship. It may be extremely difficult and time consuming for companies to spend additional time structuring and protecting their internship program. Since O’Donnell doesn’t prove herself to be the most credible author the advice provided may not be completely accurate, but it is important to consider if companies are seeking to avoid unpaid intern exploitation charges. 



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