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In recent days, there have been several news reports about the legality of unpaid internships and the Labor Department’s plan to crack down on employers’ who use unpaid interns.

For example, this week The New York Times reported that Nancy J. Leppink, the Acting Head of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, confirmed that the agency is “cracking down” on unpaid internships.

According to Ms. Leppink, “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), there are six criteria that employers must use to determine whether an intern should be paid.  Other than what has appeared in news reports, there is little information on how the agency intends to increase enforcement on unpaid internships. 

However, we have noticed that DOL seems to have stepped up its enforcement of employment and labor laws in several areas, including expanded Wage and Hour audits and increased OSHA oversight.  Also, we are hearing from SHRM members that penalties are harsher than in recent years, even for inadvertent errors. 

Below are links to some of the articles on enforcement that we’ve been following:



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The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Friday, April 23, 2010.
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