Recruiting and Legal Issues
How will you find those ideal candidates to fill your internship position(s)? The number one tip from those who have established programs is to start recruiting early! This cannot be overemphasized to retain the very best interns. Students begin making commitments to course schedules and oftentimes part-time jobs as much as two-three months prior to the next semester. Begin searching three to four months before you need a student to begin. Starting early has other advantages. The longer the application period is, the greater the number of applications. You increase your chance of finding the best person for the internship.
When you are recruiting interns, develop a working relationship with the Career Development Center, attend internship and job fairs, place ads in college/university newspapers and websites, and send material to student organizations.
Choosing an Intern
When choosing an intern, do so as carefully as you would choose permanent employees. After all, they might be permanent employees someday. You’re making an investment of time and money. As you interview potential interns, determine if the intern is truly motivated.
- Does he or she just want a job or will this fulfill an academic requirement?
- Will the intern fit into your organization’s culture?
- Does he or she have the level of experience you need?
With careful hiring consideration, you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls of internships.
Last, but certainly not least, learn the legal implications of hiring interns. As with any other workers, interns are subject to legal protections and regulations. Protect yourself and your intern by knowing the laws. What work can and can’t you assign? This is especially important if your company employs international students, who need special qualifications to work in the U.S. Consult your corporate lawyer or the intern’s school office of international education, if you are unfamiliar with the hiring of international interns.
Do You Have to Pay Interns?
The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which applies to all companies that have at least two employees directly engaged in interstate commerce and annual sales of at least $500,000.00, severely restricts an employer’s ability to use unpaid interns or trainees. It does not limit an employer’s ability to hire paid interns.
You do not have to pay interns who qualify as trainees. The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined six criteria for determining trainee status:
- Interns cannot displace regular employees
- Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship (though you may decide to hire them at the conclusion of the experience)
- Interns are not entitled to wages during the internship
- Interns must receive training from your organization, even if it somewhat impedes the work
- Interns must get hands-on experience with equipment and processes used in your industry
- Interns’ training must primarily benefit them, not the organization.
Workers’ and Unemployment Compensation
Workers’ compensation boards have found that interns contribute enough to a company to make them employees. It is wise to cover interns under your workers’ compensation policy even though you aren’t required to do so. Student interns are not generally eligible for unemployment compensation at the end of the internship.
Keep In Mind
Even if a student is working through a school program for which he or she is being “paid” in college credits, the student still has the right, under the FLSA, to be paid unless the employer is not deriving any immediate advantage by using him/her.
Paid interns make ideal workers — hungry to learn, eager to make a good impression and willing to perform a multitude of tasks. The relatively small amount of money employers spend on intern wages and benefits is a good investment, because it often produces future, long-term employees.
The employer should identify the specific terms and conditions of employment (e.g., dates of employment as an intern, including the date the internship will end; compensation; organizational and/or reporting relationships; principal duties, tasks or responsibilities; working conditions; confidentiality; any other expectations of the employer), and should discuss these with prospective interns, so that there is no misunderstanding regarding the relationship. Also, it is good sense to document such a discussion.
The most common types of visas employers will see on college campuses, when recruiting international undergraduate or graduate students for either employment or internship positions, are the F-1 and J-1 visas.
“An F-1 visa is granted to a person coming to the United States to attend a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or language training program approved by the U.S. Attorney General for study by foreign students. The visa holder plans to return home after completing studies. This is the most common non-immigrant visa for an international student attending undergraduate and graduate school. Students are granted F-1 status until the completion of the academic program and 12 months of post-program practical training. The purpose of the F-1 visa is to provide an opportunity for study in the United States. Anything outside of study, including employment, is an exception to the visa.”
Employers may need to seek legal advice regarding the hiring of international student interns from their organization’s legal team.
Also see the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services –
http://uscis.gov/graphics/lawsregs/index.htm Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 214.2 (f)