9 important things you should know when you hire summer interns
Summer is here, and you may be thinking about hiring interns, minors or seasonal workers. If so, keep in mind that there are many laws on the state and federal level that governing minimum wage, overtime, nondiscrimination, and child labor.
If you’re not careful enough, you could unintentionally violate child labor laws and end up paying major penalties. On the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates child labor laws and the Department of Labor (DOL) enforces them. Those governing agencies have established the number of hours (per day and week) minors of various ages may work, as well as the types of work they may perform. Under federal law, employers may be subject to civil penalties for each employee who is the subject of a child labor violation, in addition to possible criminal penalties and/or imprisonment. Employers may also be subject to further penalties for violations of state child labor laws.
Tips to Remember When Hiring Minors This Summer
Here are some tips for handling your summer hires:
- Understand and comply with both federal and state child labor laws, occupational safety and health regulations that apply to your business. Employers must check state law and federal law and comply with the more restrictive law.
- Stress safety, particularly among first-line supervisors who have the greatest opportunity to influence teens and their work habits. Work with supervisors and experienced workers to develop an injury and illness prevention program. Train adolescent workers to recognize hazards and use safe work practices. (Back Office Remedies offers various safety training programs.)
- Assess and eliminate hazards for adolescent workers, such as:
- Driving a car or truck
- Operating tractors or other heavy equipment
- Using power tools
- Employers are responsible for verifying the age of their minor employees. Age certificates do not give employers authority to violate any child labor laws. Employers must determine a minor’s age and set his or her job duties and work schedules accordingly and carefully. Also, employers must file the minor employee’s age certificate, keeping it for as long as the minor is employed.
- Unless employers are absolutely certain that they are not engaged in interstate commerce, they should assume that they are.
- Interns who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
- Child labor regulations limit the hours and the times of day that minors age 14 and 15 may work to:
- Outside school hours;
- No more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays;
- No more than 8 hours on a non-school day;
- No more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session;
- No more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session;
- Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—except between June 1 and Labor Day when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.
- Children under age 14 may not be employed in nonagricultural occupations covered by the FLSA. Permissible employment for such children is limited to work that is exempt from the FLSA, such as delivering newspapers to the consumer and acting. Children may also perform work not covered by the FLSA such as completing minor chores around private homes or casual baby-sitting.
- Minors age 15 may work as lifeguards at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks when such youth have been trained and certified by the American Red Cross, or a similar certifying organization, in aquatics and water safety. The federal child labor provisions require that a 15-year-old must acquire additional certification if he or she is to be employed as a swim instructor.
Hiring unpaid interns
Legally, unpaid interns must benefit educationally from their experience with your organization. Remember that interns are in your office to receive training that benefits them — they are not there primarily to benefit the employer. If your interns are unpaid, make sure that you are satisfying the following Department of Labor's 6 criteria.
- The internship, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
- The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff.
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and, on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Also, here are several pointers for treating the intern as a true student, as opposed to an employee.
- Interns should earn college credit for their efforts as part of a formal academic program at a college or university.
- Structure tasks around the intern’s academic goals, not the employer’s operations. "Grunt work" should be only rarely assigned.
- Afford the intern the chance to attain skills that are readily transferable to other employers within the industry, not skills or procedures that are unique to your organization.
- Cooperate closely with the educational institution, which should be providing careful oversight. Such scrutiny helps to demonstrate that the intern’s duties are educational, not merely operational and that the internship is primarily academic in nature.
- Set a clear start and end date, perhaps tied to a school semester or break. Establish the duration before the internship begins, and don’t schedule it around the organization’s busy season or an employee downsizing.
- Don’t over-work your interns, even if they aren’t currently enrolled in classes. Generally, the intern should not be scheduled based on your productivity needs, but in accordance with the intern’s academic goals. (As a practical matter, you shouldn’t "need" an intern; if you’re so reliant on interns to get the work done that they are working extreme hours, then your interns are probably employees.)
- If unforeseen circumstances create a need for interns to fill in for regular employees, consider hiring them on a temporary basis. Make clear, however, that the intern is not being given a "tryout" for eventual full-time employment.
- The DOL six-factor test is based on an intern’s status according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) definition of "employee." But state wage and hour laws apply, too.
- In light of these considerable demands and caveats, consider whether an internship program is ultimately worth the risk and administrative burden.
While there are numerous regulations which must be carefully complied with in the course of hiring interns for summer employment, it can be a worthwhile experience for both the employer and the employee. The employer gains a valuable cost effective asset and the interns gain a wealth of experience that will help them in the future. We hope this guideline helps your successful summer hiring.
Remember, child labor laws vary from state to state. Please consult with your state department of labor for further information. Back Office Remedies also provide HR compliance support. Feel free to contact us for more information.
Updated on August 24, 2017 11:13