Hiring Students for Summertime Jobs
How To Stay Cool While the D.O.L. Turns Up the Heat
‘Tis the season for students seeking summer jobs. Many companies relish the opportunity to hire students over their summer break – they can help while regular employees are on vacation, they can provide the extra resources required for special projects, and so on. Students, of course, obtain a variety of benefits from summer employment – money, real world experience, contacts, resume building … It can be a classic, symbiotic relationship.
Except, as is so often the case in the employment world, there is a battery of legal requirements, many of which you would have never anticipated, that first have to be satisfied. It’s not that bad once you know the rules, but the state Departments of Labor, as well as the federal DOL, have been cracking down, and it is important to get it right from the start.
The two most frequent contexts in which employers get into trouble involve the employment of minors, and unpaid “internships.” Here’s what you need to know.
Employing Students Who Are Under 18
All states have laws that regulate the employment of minors – that is, workers under the age of 18. The laws are often arcane and hypertechnical. Here, for example, are some of the keys to the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law (“PCLL”).
- Before a minor can start working, he or she must obtain a valid work permit, which will be issued on request by the school district in which the minor resides.
- If the minor is under the age of 16, the employer must also obtain a written statement from the minor’s parent or legal guardian acknowledging their understanding of the duties and hours of employment, and granting permission to work. Here’s a form: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=18&objID=1321070&mode=2
- Employers who employ minors must also post, in a conspicuous place, an “Abstract of the Child Labor Hours Provisions,” prepared by the Department of Labor and Industry. See: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=18&objID=439051&mode=2
- Employers must also maintain at the place of employment a list of all minors employed, the schedule for each minor (including daily and weekly hours worked and rest breaks taken), a copy of the minor’s work permit, and parental authorizations.
- Within five days of the minor’s start date and termination date, the employer must provide written notice of employment to the school district – call the minor’s school district to see if they have a prescribed form.
- With very limited exceptions, children under 14 may not be employed, and there are specific hour and schedule limitations depending on whether the minor is 14-15, or 16-17.
There are other rules that apply to specific industries and contexts. Check with counsel.
The Student Internship Myth
There is no shortage of college students literally begging to work for free as “interns” in their chosen fields. Many companies will take on unpaid interns as a way of giving back, even if they do not need them.
But, as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
In almost all real world contexts, the law prohibits unpaid internships – employers are required to treat so-called “interns” as employees, paying at least minimum wage, plus overtime. The Departments of Labor are cracking down, and multi-million dollar settlements are making headlines. There’s even a law firm website promoting lawsuits against companies that employ unpaid interns: http://unpaidinternslawsuit.com/.
There is a multi-level test for discerning whether a student can be treated as an unpaid intern. Here is the gist of the regulations, all of which must be satisfied in order for an employer to avoid the obligation to pay the “intern”:
- The internship must be similar to training which would be given in an educational environment. If the student is spending substantial time performing work-related tasks that are not primarily educational, the student is an employee, not an intern;
- The internship experience must be for the benefit of the intern. Again, if the student is performing tasks that are primarily for the employer’s, and not the student’s benefit, the student must be paid;
- The intern must not displace regular employees, but must work under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training must derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern (and, on the contrary, the employer’s operations may occasionally be compromised). Again, who is primarily benefitting from the so-called internship – the employer or the student?
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
The Bottom line
If the arrangement looks more like a job than an educational experience, pay the intern at least minimum wage; keep track of the intern’s hours as you would any other non-exempt employee; and pay overtime if the intern works more than 40 hours in a week.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://meainfo.org/app/uploads/2014/10/michael-trachtman.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Michael G. TrachtmanBusiness Attorney and MEA General CounselPowell Trachtman Logan Carrle & Lombardo P.C.[/author_info] [/author]