Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 16 of 16

Thread: Illegal unpaid internships

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2008
    Location
    North America
    Posts
    2,232

    Illegal unpaid internships

    Re: "Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say" (NY Times article)

    The article primarily addresses the private sector, but I can't help wondering how many unpaid interns in the public sector are affected.

    The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Advisory: Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-09 gives six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid:
    1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

    2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;

    3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close
    observation;

    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the
    activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually
    be impeded;

    5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training
    period; and

    6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to
    wages for the time spent in training.

    If all of the factors listed above are met, then the worker is a “trainee”, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the worker. Because the FLSA’s definition of “employee” is broad, the excluded category of “trainee” is necessarily quite narrow. Moreover, the fact that an employer labels a worker as a trainee and the worker’s activities as training and/or a state unemployment compensation program develops what it calls a training program and describes the unemployed workers who participate as trainees does not make the worker a trainee for purposes of the FLSA unless the six factors are met.
    Source: http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/att...GL12-09acc.pdf


    My particular interest is in the experiences of illegal unpaid planning interns. I realize that some posters may have to disguise identifying facts to protect the innocent... and the not so innocent.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,895
    Thanks for posting that. I hope this helps all the college grads looking for work so that they understand their rights as workers.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    DFW
    Posts
    5,293
    Blog entries
    1
    Everything sounds pretty straightforward but #4 seems a little vague. When I was an unpaid intern, most of the things I did were more for my benefit, but I did do tasks that benefited the employer. I feel like it's a win-win situation. For example, I win since I learn a lot by going through files, and the employer wins by getting rid of that stack of files. Both parties gain advantage. Is there really anything wrong with that? I feel with unpaid internships, it's an open door. If I ever felt like I wasn't learning or felt that the work was too strenuous, I could always leave.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,851
    I think #4 is dealing with the actual training conducted by the employer. Paid or unpaid, training does not equate to profits or productivity on the part of the trainer.

    I read that article a day or two ago. I think it's very hard to justify an intern's "rights." We could extend that argument to ANY job, paid or unpaid. Yes, job descriptions should be more accruate...or more ambigious to avoid a lawsuit?.

    Unless you are a business owner, you really don't have a say. How many tens of millions of workers over this past century have done gritty, grimy, grueling work for barely anything? Work is what you make of it. You can only hope that your concerns are met by the employer. If you don't like it, leave. No one cares how "special" you are.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    6,309
    Good post so that grads can be more aware of their rights... but I see I pretty significant burden of proof falling on the intern to prove up anything. If employers derived no benefit from the interns, then few would ever offer them. I think it is a question of the primary purpose--is the employer giving the work to the intern primarily to help them build experience and receive more holistic training, or is it to replace paid labor?

    The places that get in trouble will be the ones that laid off employees, and then subsequently hired more unpaid interns. When that occurs, I think the burden shifts to the employer.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    This is a timely post, as I'm currently waffling on whether to apply to that NYC Dept of City Planning "executive office internship" internship position... and I already have another unpaid internship lined up for the summer... I really want money, but where are the paid opportunities??

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston MA
    Posts
    9
    The Boston Redevelopment Authority has 11 unpaid internships listed and 0 paid jobs or internships. This may be due to summer approaching when many college students are looking for internship positions, but I have to suspect that they may be breaking a few of these rules. That being said if anyone is interested here is the link to their employment page:

    http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthor...bs/jobdesc.asp

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Ocean to the east, land to the west
    Posts
    1,285
    I had heard about this ruling but think it only applies to for-profit organizations.

    In any case, it seems a little silly. Minimum wage law, etc., seem relevant to fields that do not require advanced education, but people doing unpaid internships in municipal planning offices are mostly doing them because the want the experience. Most of them could work in McDonalds instead if money was the issue. If you have to pay all interns, the result will be far fewer internships, especially in communities like ours with a living wage ordinance.

    Graduates who seek to protect their rights by insisting on pay may find out there are lot fewer internships out there suddenly.

    The biggest irony in this is that we are being told by HUD that CDBG-funded on-the-job training CANNOT generally pay the trainees. How does that jibe with this Labor Department ruling?????

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,740
    Blog entries
    3
    This may seem anecdotal, but it seems like this year, I'm seeing a lot more ads for unpaid internships than the same time last year. I suspect if there is really an increase in the number of unpaid interns, many will be doing the work left behind by paid professional planners who were laid off.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2008
    Location
    North America
    Posts
    2,232

    Obama Administration Considers Cracking Down on Unpaid Internships

    Update from FOXNews.com:
    Obama Admin: Companies Must Pay Interns

    Excerpts:
    Supporters say the law should be enforced, and companies should not get free labor. They also want to level the playing field between interns who can afford to work for free and those who can't.

    Ross Eisenbrey, the Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute, says, “If you can't have an unpaid internship because you need to work, you're poor, or your family just doesn't have the means, you're cut out, and that's wrong."
    Labor lawyers, such as Kara Maciel at EpsteinBeckerGreen law firm, suggest businesses should review what they ask interns to do. “If [interns] are performing administrative tasks, clerical tasks, answering phones, getting copies,” Maciel says, “things that would otherwise displace a regular employee, then the Department of Labor may find that to be more looking like an employee than an intern.” And therefore should be paid, she says.
    But business lobby groups note the economy is so tight, companies may have to cut the number of interns they hire, or not hire interns at all, if they all have to be paid.

    Barbara Lang, the Vice President and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, says this will hit small businesses especially hard.

    “They will likely not be able to pay for it. Unless the government is going to provide some subsidy along with these requirements, they won't be able to provide these experiences any more,” Lang says.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,851
    First, ANY internship is a priviledge not an entitlement.
    Second, there are still paid internships out there, including planning internships. There are more people competing for them. Even in better times, I still had to work my butt off to earn a paid planning internship.
    Third, is the current administration going to set pay scales for how much a company should pay its interns?
    Fourth, I don't think paying an intern costs a company THAT much, apart from an hourly wage, some liability insurance, and other minimum coverage.
    Fifth, you take what you want out of the internship. Even if these positions are paid it doesn't mean it is preparing you for real work. If anything it gives you a false sense of security. Success in this century will stem partly from self-innovation, creativity, adaptibility, and luck. One of the few benefits from the scarcity of paid internships is that it has forced a sizable population of students and recent graduates in many professions to find alternative ways to bring in money while still earning valuable job experience.

    Yes, I support paid internships, but I have always treated them as something to be earned. They are really the icing on the cake. Forcing them down companies' throats is not going to help.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  12. #12
    Cal Poly career assistance posted this in their page on Linked In. I don't get it. What are students looking for an internship supposed to do? Successfully apply for an unpaid internship and then bring this up? LOL.... Or maybe they shouldn't apply for unpaid internships at all? Unrealistic given the job market. Unless there is adequate regulation of such positions (which is going to be impossible to do with private entities), students have largely no choice.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,851
    There is no requirement that companies or agencies HAVE to have internships at all. They are primarily for the benefit of the intern. If companies wanted cheap labor (without benefits) there are countless legal alternatives: temporary help, contract workers, part-time employees, unpaid workers, work release programs, etc.

    Paying one's dues is also part of climbing up the ladder and extends well into the first one or two jobs after graduation. I was lucky to earn any money from internships, but I knew that a higher salary might take several years after school. I don't think Obama is requiring that interns earn a livable salary but I think it gives interns a false sense of security thinking that EVERY job they have from now on will need to have SOME money.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  14. #14
    There is no requirement that companies or agencies HAVE to have internships at all. They are primarily for the benefit of the intern. If companies wanted cheap labor (without benefits) there are countless legal alternatives: temporary help, contract workers, part-time employees, unpaid workers, work release programs, etc.
    I think that is one of the points being made here. In the event the internship is not primarily in the benefit of the intern, ideally it should be paid work.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    May 2008
    Location
    North America
    Posts
    2,232

    Topic: Illegal Unpaid Interships

    A belated thank you to everybody who posted! Your input has been of help to me in some of this fall's NYC community board meetings.


    In the mean time, articles are cropping up that examine unpaid internships from a financial perspective; some are concluding that they can be a financially unwise practice; for example, (my bolding):
    San Diego employment lawyer Alicia I. Dearn says that “99 percent of the time, it boils down to one simple question: Is the work of the intern benefiting your business?” If you benefit, rather than the unpaid intern, it’s illegal. . . .

    When employers ignore that criterion, “they're subject to fines, penalties and claims for back wages,” says HR consultant Linda Duffy, who runs Leadership Habitude in Irvine, California. Should an unpaid intern be injured or discriminated against or sexually harassed at your workplace, you can also face workers’ compensation and other tax and employment liability issues. What’s more, points out Dearn, regulators have a way of tipping each other off. So your state issue can escalate into the nightmare of a full-blown IRS audit.

    One unpaid intern can get pretty costly.
    Source:http://www.foxsmallbusinesscenter.co...d-internships/

    More snippets from the above news article:
    Finally, if you have any doubt about whether or not your internship is on the up and up, there’s an easy solution. Just pay the minimum wage and you’ve got yourself a real employee.
    Here are some direct do’s and don’ts about hiring unpaid interns that will probably keep you out of trouble:

    - Don’t hire an intern to launch your social media marketing campaign or to design your new website if no one else in your shop has any such expertise. If you’re harnessing the specialized skills of an unpaid intern and not providing training, it’s a sure bet you’re avoiding paying an employee.

    - Do check in with local universities and community colleges for guidance. Ask about their programs and let them identify candidates to interview. Unpaid interns don’t have to receive course credit but, says Perkins, “receiving school credit weighs in favor of legitimacy.”

    - Don’t promise full employment when the internship ends, ever.

    - Do set up monitoring procedures or close supervision of the intern, so it’s clear he or she is being tutored or trained. Needless to say, if an intern works from home or virtually, you’re not providing an educational experience.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Signature's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2007
    Location
    California
    Posts
    52

    Bait and Switch

    Am I the only one who was lured in with a "possibly paid" gig doing a project that they wanted ..... only to be given something different and the money to evaporate?

    Just asking...

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Future of unpaid internships
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 22
    Last post: 14 Jun 2013, 3:28 AM
  2. Replies: 22
    Last post: 18 Jul 2011, 4:37 PM
  3. Subdivision How to fix an illegal split
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 15
    Last post: 04 Oct 2007, 2:55 PM
  4. AIB - Illegal Signs
    Cities and Places
    Replies: 7
    Last post: 12 Sep 2005, 9:30 PM
  5. Illegal Art
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 11
    Last post: 26 Nov 2002, 8:24 PM