Something must be in the water. Hot on the heels of the IRS notice that they’re cracking down on companies that use independent contractors inappropriately, the federal Department of Labor is now going after unpaid internships that may violate minimum wage laws. From The New York Times:
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
I’ve used interns in the past, and in retrospect they may well have not passed the Department of Labor’s muster. But in all cases I did it through the school (a high school and a university) and followed their rules, so I figured everything was kosher. I suspect plenty of businesses have done the same and may be in for a rude surprise if they get a call from federal investigators. To be safe, review and abide by the Department of Labor’s criteria for legal unpaid internships.