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Are Summer Interns In The U.S. Compensated Fairly?

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Are Summer Interns In The U.S. Compensated Fairly?
Are Summer Interns In The U.S. Compensated Fairly?
Are Summer Interns Compensated Fairly? GUESTS: Dan Eaton, attorney, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek Law Corp. James Tarbox, executive director, San Diego State University's Career Services

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. How do you get your foot in the door of a new profession or Pat your resume? Many people will tell you one good way is to land an internship this summer many college students are working as temporary interns at law firms, TV stations, nonprofit museums and in fact a recent survey of graduating college seniors found that 61% have held some kind of internship during their college careers. But not all internships are created equal. Today we will look at the debate of paid and unpaid internships and what kind of work interns should be doing. Joining me are attorney Dan Eaton. Welcome. And James Tarbox, . What's the purpose of interning. Why do students want to do it and why do employers offer this? From the University perspective is to get the students have exposure to what it means to take their education and work. It's a bridge. Dependent upon the type of study that student has, that experience will be different. And for employers, why do they want interns? Many of the employers we talked to use them to conduct stated interviews and determine whether they got a good population in terms of people to recruit from. They may also just want to get back. Many of the people who offer internships in our office our alumni they want to continue to get that University. Give us some idea of the work that interns do? From my experience of professor who taught intern classes for many years. The types of work are project-based. So when I worked with an employer as a professor, to make sure the students have sustained meaningful work that allows them to see what it would be like to be in that position, or function in that industry. I could have a student who's working for media and they would get to work on ad campaigns or media campaigns for different clients. They would use the latest software and report of the somebody who guides their work during the process. Some interns get paid some don't. What determines that? Is determined by the employer typically. To give you a sense, San Diego State University career services, we post just under 2000 internships a year and 65% of those are paid. The other 35% are usually run through class and governed by different requirements that we have. And those experiences the students get the opportunity to learn. So what's the difference between an unpaid intern and a volunteer? The difference is well the really isn't a difference. Because they're both getting uncompensated service. From a legal standpoint if you're talking about a for-profit operation namely business, there are certain limits on what the business can do with respect to internships and certain hurdles they have overcome to offer this unpaid situation to people who are working. That is a test that was laid out back in a 1947 case. It's been generally adopted since then. It requires people who are doing employee type work, the paid. So there is a six part test that has factors such as involving operation factors is a similar to a vocational school and is it more for the benefit of the trainees or the students. Our workers actually being displaced by these student workers and does the employer tried anything immediate with advantage from this or does it turn out that the intern is impeding their operations in some respect. There can't be an expectation that the student is entitled to a job after the internship. And also is there an understanding that this work is going to be done on the intern in the person has them around. If an intern does get paid to they need to earn minimum wage? If it is, but they don't meet the criteria, then the answer is yes. Employees need to be paid minimum wage. The fact is, all of these six criteria did not need to be met, there was a case that came out earlier this month from the second circuit Court of Appeal [ Lost Audio ] is there the internship that is one that exposes students to real-world experiences. It adds some educational component. So the primary beneficiary could be a non-compensated setting. A student who's getting all these wonderful educational benefits from being exposed in dealing with people who they're working with. There also getting some real-world experience. The two young men who brought the lawsuit against Fox Searchlight, they were unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan. They said their internship duties included copying documents and maintaining takeout menus. Assembling furniture, taking out trash and buying a non-allergenic pillow for the movie director. Howdy of qualify that as an internship? I don't know that industry well, or if that's something that a person in that role would be doing, but as I mentioned earlier project-based work is important for interns for just that reason. There are going to be miscellaneous duties any intern will do the font to categories like that. If you have a project this guiding the experience what the student is an intern, then you guarantee that the majority of what they're doing there is not considered wasted time. Just on the surface it sounds as if the primary beneficiary of the internship was indeed the film company instead of offering any educational benefits to these interns. The Court of Appeals says let's look a little more broadly. The fact is that these the students who brought this up for recent graduates and there may have been the argument that there was some education component be on the specific tasks that you talked about. I don't know if those tasks that you commented on that these people had to do let's take a look at everything that's coming on here. Is it tied to some sort of educational program, this determined to the beneficiary is. Is going to be a tough test to administer on a forward going basis. When interns come back to you use been head of the internship program. Did they ever tell you that indeed, they spent a lot of their time doing these sort of medial gopher kind of jobs. I do have those conversations on occasion. I tell the students to look at their options. I can either first call the employer and say I have this complaint from a student. Second, I can train you to do it. Then let's see what we can do and you can learn interns of the conversation. Because the employer might not be aware that this is going on. You may have several site supervisors. So looking at options that you haven't experienced want to get out of it. Almost without fail, every student has said to me. Let's train all gladly train with you and follow-up and if that doesn't work then would you mind interceding? Was that conversation like between student and a player. For the student it would be saying something about the expectations. Say that James Tarbox, has sent you can email us talk about that and talk about follow-up. I explained to students that senior site supervisor every day is not the same as meeting with them and talking about a project. So you need to own a piece of that just like you need to own a piece of that when you are an employee. The second circuit Court of Appeals ruling that was made on the Black Swan lawsuit was seen as a defeat for interns who wanted more legal protection. Why was interpreted that way? It was seen that way because the lower court said, if you have these kind of tasks that are not going to work in a for-profit setting, the lower court had to apply a different standard than the one that the Department of Labor said should be applied. That is why the ruling was construed as a for-profit employer giving leeway for these unpaid internships without having to follow this rigid six part task. They also said it makes class action suits unlikely. Because the Second Circuit said you need to look at these on an individual case-by-case basis. Almost by definition, you cannot have a collective class-action because there are too many individual issues and that is a situation that is not disposed to a class-action. Because each person has a different experience and is addressed on to merits. So every intern who thinks that they are not hitting beneficial things from their internship, would have to file their lawsuit. That's the argument in the argument is there won't be enough at stake. So are you essentially giving these employers a license. As James said, there is some ownership on the part of the internship as well. There is some obligation for the intern to engage. Because the best internships are not only things that are things the intern receives but things that the intern goes after so what kind of the vice James to give a student about what they should consider when applying for internships? One thing want to consider is that these people who consider internships are outside of the university. If you're looking to do it as unpaid after university, you need to treat it as a negotiation and be clear up front about what you want to learn and the experience you want. I would hope that anybody coming out of internship class at Sandia state or any of the university, would be able to negotiate those after taking the class so they can effectively get the big picture. And then while they're going through it, be able to manage the details of the experience so when they have to talk about it to an employer, they can really communicate the transferable skills in the relevant experiences that they had. You said a lot of employers see internships as extended job interviews. So they use him as a recruitment tool in a way. An issue raised is that some unpaid and low-paid internships are steppingstones for well-to-do students who can afford to work for free. Working-class students, they need paid employment so they don't get the kind of connections and have long interviews getting to know people. What you said that argument? I think there's a lot of validity to it. We managed to graduate outcomes surveys in just over 50% of our students to internships. I would say a sizable portion of those are unpaid. The same students that we polled said they work part-time jobs 70%. And when I taught my class I was told my students, what it should lifelike right now. Many of them were taking a full load of classes working in unpaid internship been working a full-time paying job. I said think about that in terms of what your next experience will be for finding a paid internship. Your raising an excellent point. Students need to be aware of that especially if they don't have the economic means to do this unpaid. That makes sense at this point to do this is what I ask them or should you be in a part-time position. Wondering, Dan, did you work as an internship? I did for the U.S. Senate. I thought the experience was phenomenal. They do some remedial work? Sure I did. But it was the engagement but I had with the senator and many the staffers to find out what they did that make this such a rich and rewarding experience. I took advantage of a lot of the opportunities. That kind of experience, where the person prior the internship, ideally the best internships involve that level of engagement. And employer offering these internships who is interested in offering an educational benefit to the people doing the intern work. Is a long history of internship in the legal profession. Yes there is. Most in the legal and law firms are paid and are very lucrative. There was just a story in the New York Times about what these interns are being paid. More southern summer associate. Is there anything in the California lot that protects in terms while on the job? In the sense that there is case law that does address this whole issue and there is a division of labor it's standards enforcement opinion letters. One came out in 2010. It carefully analyzes the six factors. Iss let's not the inflexible about that. There is some flexibility look at the totality and focus on the educational benefit that is resounding to the student. Because if all of this is exploitation is not going to work. But if there is a bona fide education going on here and if the employer is getting some benefit but is really having to train early on, then this is okay. But overall, is this in turn ultimately benefiting more than the employer. If it is, then this internship is going to pass muster. By the way Dan Eaton happy birthday . And thank you James Tarbox, Executive Director Sandia state University career services.

A recent survey of graduating college seniors in the nation shows 61 percent held some kind of internship during their college careers.

But not all internships are created equal — some are paid and some aren’t.

Dan Eaton, who practices employment law in San Diego, said whether an intern is paid or not is based on several criteria. Eaton cited six exemptions that would allow a business or organization to not pay an intern.

The exemptions include whether the internship would benefit the person or whether the internship would displace a regular employee.

James Tarbox, executive director of San Diego State University’s Career Services, said the purpose of internships is to really give students the exposure they need in their desired industries.

“The types of work would be project-based — to make sure the students have some sort of sustained, meaningful work,” Tarbox told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday.

Tarbox said SDSU typically advertises more than 2,000 internships a year with only 65 percent of those being paid opportunities.