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Laws surrounding internships confusing for many businesses

Some businesses believe that the Department of Labor have made the employee rights surrounding internships complex enough that many companies may not want to take the risk, and Missouri students seeking internships may be finding them harder to come by. Internships are primarily meant as a method for students to gain valuable on-the-job training as well as an extra line on their resume. For businesses, an internship allows them to hire another employee at a lower cost. However, businesses that attempt to get too much labor out of interns at too low of a cost often find themselves in trouble.

A business cannot use an unpaid intern to do work that would otherwise necessitate another employee. This means that a business essentially needs to use an unpaid intern to complete work that would not be done otherwise. Furthermore, an unpaid internship needs to be valuable to the intern themselves. This means that it must provide them with education and experience that they will find useful to their future earning potential.

Furthermore, switching from an unpaid internship to a paid internship may come with other risks. Paying an intern may actually end up supporting an intern's later claim that they were an actual employee. If an intern is found to be an employee then the intern will qualify for overtime pay and at least minimum wage.

Interns have long been used as a source of cheap labor by businesses, but this is not what the internship system was initially intended for. Internships were intended to give students valuable skills, and this was primarily a method for businesses to give back to their industry as well as scout out potential talent. Interns that believe they are being used to replace paid employees can contact labor law attorneys to make sure that they are not owed additional compensation.

Source: Chron, "The changing way of internships", Kevin Troutman, May 31, 2013

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