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Compliance Issues Threaten Internships
U.S. Department of Labor guidelines indicate that any for-profit company with an unpaid internship not providing mutual value is probably breaking the law.
By Joyce Gioia-Herman
In response to a recent United States Department of Labor (DOL) warning
about intern compensation and exploitation, the issue of unpaid
internships has attracted considerable attention. The DOL subsequently
issued "Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs under the Fair Labor
Standards Act" (April 2010). This document clarifies employer
guidelines about what constitutes "trainee status" to qualify for a
compensation exemption. The reaction has ranged from confusion to
The DOL guidelines indicate that any for-profit company with an unpaid
internship not providing mutual value is probably breaking the law. To
support employers, The Internship Institute (TII), an action-oriented,
non-profit organization has issued a "Compliance Advisory" that
summarizes the DOL’s guidelines and offers a solution.
The site offers a comprehensive intern and career development training
course that awards a "Certificate of Career Preparation." This
certification course enables students to align their career paths, gain
meaningful work experience and develop the skills to perform at their
best. The course is valuable for employers, whether or not they pay
their interns, because it tangibly demonstrates the company's
investment in these young people.
"Interns increase talent equity. Aside from an inherent commitment to
train them, the value of making them more capable, efficient,
productive, loyal and motivated provides a straight line to greater
return on investment. Providing a compliance remedy is secondary to
being substantive and beneficial for everyone," said Matthew Zinman,
founder of the Institute.
Ten percent of all course proceeds will support TII's "Unpaid Intern
Compensation Fund" to make internships accessible for disadvantaged
youth. For a limited time, TII has also issued a 20 percent compliance
subsidy for companies to make certification more accessible. Employers
with and without paid internships are invited to utilize the code:
“COMP0610” for group registration.
At a much higher cost, the site InternBridge.com also offers support
materials to employers; however, the certification program offered by
the Institute is a unique solution to this challenge.
This compliance solution is an excellent example of how innovation may
be applied to benefit all parties. Given the global use of interns, we
at the Herman Group would not be surprised to find this valuable
easy-to-implement course translated into several languages.
Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business
futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional
speaker. Archived editions are posted at