Discussion 5: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) specifies employee rights, including minimum wage and overtime pay. Students often work in unpaid internships, and employers are not obligated to comply with the FLSA if the student is receiving an educational opportunity, as opposed to providing free labor for a company. The U.S. Department of Labor requires compliance with the FLSA, including payment of wages and overtime when an intern is solely assisting in a company’s operations. For this discussion, you will be considering when an employer should be obligated to comply with the FLSA and compensate its interns. Before you begin, review the United States Department of Labor (DOL) tests for determining when an intern should be compensated. The URL for connecting to the DOL tests is http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm.
- For your initial response, describe an intern and an internship situation that you believe meets the DOL tests for remaining an unpaid internship
- In describing the situation, take all of the test provisions into consideration
- Post replies to at least two other students
- Your posts to other students should be at least one paragraph
- You will assume the role of the attorney for the interns described by the other students
- You will argue for why the interns should receive compensation based on lack of compliance with the DOL tests
- Doing more than the minimum will enhance your grade
- All posts are to be substantial, incorporate course concepts, and relate to the discussion issue
- You might also want to conduct some independent research to enhance your posts
Deadline for Submission:
- Your initial response is due by Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET
- Your replies to two other students are due by Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET
Please refer to the Discussion Board Rubric for a complete guide to how the discussions will be graded.
4/18/2017 12:01 AM EDT | 796 words
To describe an internship situation that I believe meets DOL tests for remaining an unpaid internship, it is best to offer a real-world example of a company that offers both unpaid and paid internships. My current employer, Comcast Corporation, is an excellent example that offers both. The unpaid internship is an 11-week summer program that is offered to college sophomores and juniors throughout various Comcast offices in the United States. It is designed to gain a working knowledge in the areas of Business Services, Data and Business Analytics and Management and Business Operations functions in a Fortune 50 communications company and to receive mentorship to expand their professional network. The paid internship is a 2-year rotational assignment where you work at various locations throughout the United States that offers a cooperative learning track that is designed for you to become part of the Comcast team in your area of expertise. The first element of DOL standards states that an unpaid internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment. The 11-week unpaid internship works on projects that do not directly benefit the organization in any way. They simply work on projects in which the team is most interested in and Comcast gives them the tools and the resources to succeed. This can include resources such as software developers or members of the senior leadership team that offer their support to help them learn similar to what they would gain in a classroom environment. Comcast also gives unpaid interns the ability to network with other professionals including those in their field. The 2-year rotational co-op program offers a learning experience as well but works on projects that directly benefit the company, which would disqualify them from being an unpaid intern. This segues into the second criteria of the internship benefitting the intern and not the company. Comcast doesn’t benefit anything from unpaid interns, as it is more of a cost to the company than anything. It is simply just the right thing to do and a way for Comcast to give back to the community. Of course, Comcast does want to identify talented individuals and bring them onboard, which is why they offer a 2-year paid internship to learn and grow with the company. The third criteria for an unpaid internship states that it does not replace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff. This is true of all 11-week unpaid interns in that they do not do any work that is already delegated to regular full-time employees. They do, however, work under close supervision of existing staff with the most senior employees who are very knowledgeable of the business and can offer interns a working knowledge in their field of study. The 2-year rotational co-op is designed to replace and add to the Comcast team, working on projects as a regular full-time employee of Comcast. The do not work under close supervision of existing staff, but are given the resources to succeed and are leaders in the company, making decisions with less supervision. The fourth element states that the employer provides training that derives in no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern. While the 11-week program is designed to only give learners working knowledge in their field, some candidates have some great ideas that Comcast is interested in. If a project arises that would directly benefit the company, Comcast will offer an extension of employment that would convert an unpaid intern into a full-time paid employee with benefits so that it can take advantage of any activities that an intern is working on. The 2-year rotational co-op paid internship is designed to directly benefit the company and Comcast takes immediate advantage of all activities that are currently being worked on by interns. The fifth and sixth criteria of an unpaid intern states that an intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship and that the employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for time spent in the internship. This is true for the 11-week intern, as there is never a condition of employment while applying for the 11-week internship. A Comcast team member may identify talented individuals and offer an unpaid intern a job opportunity during or upon completion of the internship, but it is never guaranteed as a condition of completing the internship, and because company resources are used that do not benefit the company in any way, wages are never given to 11-week interns. The 2-year rotational co-op internship is, however, a paid internship that guarantees you a job at the end of your two year assignment, provided you have met all goals and completed all projects by the end of the 2 year assignment.
Edited on 04/18/2017 at 12:08:AM EDT
4/17/2017 12:50 AM EDT | 507 words
Unpaid internships allow young people, usually students, to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest. They are meant to be a form of training, and a way for the intern to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to qualify for a job in their field, rather than an employer providing an actual paying job. The Department of Labor developed a test used to determine whether or not an intern should be considered an employee (and therefore have a right to wages and protections under the FLSA). If an internship situation fits the criteria, the DOL considers it an exemption; the intern is not an employee.
Consider a student who is a young biology major in college, and is trying to determine if this is the field of study she wants to pursue. She has some experience in a laboratory environment from taking college science classes, and she is interested in gaining hands-on experience in a research lab while still being a full-time student. She gets accepted to an unpaid internship at a nearby research lab. She gets to gather data and conduct experiments under her supervisor. She is also responsible for some scheduling and secretarial duties that the staff don’t always have time to perform themselves.
This internship meets the DOL criteria for remaining an unpaid position. The first criterion is that the internship should be similar to training in an educational environment, which it is – it’s very similar to the classes she’s taken in college. The second criterion is that the internship exists for the benefit of the intern, and the third is that the intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff. These criteria are also met by this internship; the student applied for the internship to gain experience that will help her decide if she wants to continue in this field of study. She did not take a position away from an actual employee of the lab, and all of her responsibilities are for her benefit.
The fourth criterion is that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s work, and that in some instances the employer’s work may be impeded. In this case, this is also true. While the intern does have responsibilities, she is closely supervised and the employer tends to make sacrifices by taking time out of his own work to monitor what the intern is doing and teaching her.
The fifth and sixth criteria are that the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship, and that the employer and the intern understand that the internship is unpaid. Consider in this scenario, the student applied to the internship fully understanding that she would not be entitled to wages nor would she be guaranteed a job at the lab after the internship ended. After all, she is still a student and she isn’t 100% sure what field of study she wants to pursue. It was mutually understood that this was a temporary opportunity for her to gain experience while in college.