Beware of using interns to perform frequent menial tasks in your company as courts can consider them as employees that are being misclassified as interns. Not paying anybody considered an employee can open the door to costly lawsuits. Your company can end up paying thousands of dollars in back pay and other taxes including state and federal withholdings, overtime pay and benefits costs.
Internships are to provide students with educational benefit and performing only menial tasks undercuts the educational value of such a program, according to attorney Tracy Moon. “An intern does not replace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff,” he says. While menial tasks are not altogether prohibited, the majority of an intern’s time should not be spent on drudgework including data entry.
In a recent webinar on Employee Handbook Updates, Moon gave tips to avoid legal liability while accepting interns:
- Do not place students on payroll or require them to complete any employee-related forms
- Memorialize agreement with intern in a separate document
- Check with liability and workers compensation insurers to determine consequences of an accident during internship
- Design educational sessions for interns
- Consider requiring unpaid interns to submit proof from their educational institutions that they are at least preliminarily eligible for academic credit for participating in the internship program
- Assign the intern to shadow a paid employee to provide them with an educational benefit while supporting the legality of the unpaid internship program.
Stay Compliant. Here is a copy of the recording on the latest updates to your Employee Handbooks