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Internships 101: Studying Up for the FLSA Test

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It’s one of the greatest battles in the professional world. No, not Mac or PC. Not decaf versus caffeine. Not blue ink against black. No, in this two-part series we’ll tackle the central debate of your company’s intern program: To pay or not to pay?

In the past, internships have been equated to apprenticeships: the student learns from the master in a real-world industry environment. In this traditional view, the interns are beholden to the company for the work experience, knowledge and contacts they’ve received. Unpaid internships have been such a common business practice that they’re seen as a rite of passage for college students – a time to test their mettle, pay their dues. To some extent this is still true, but companies shouldn’t simply default to offering unpaid internships without doing their homework. The modern American internship has changed.

Let’s talk legality. Because unpaid internships have such a long history, most people think they’re completely legal. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets down a rather rigid six-point test for determining if a student’s work really meets unpaid status. All six points must be met, not just one or two. You can read the entire law at the Department of Labor website, but we’ve boiled down the criteria here:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace regular employees,
  • The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job after the internship; and
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages

To help ensure your company is in compliance, we’ll read a couple of these more closely. Point three, the intern does not displace regular employees. Let’s looks at an example in the hospitality industry: If you lay off regular staff (waiters, sous chefs, bussers, clerks, office staff, guides, aides, etc.) at the beginning of summer because you’re going to supplement your workforce with unpaid interns, you’d be in violation of the FLSA. If an intern could prove that a company even delayed hiring (rather than firing) needed staff until after summer interns completed their term, an intern could be awarded wages.

Next, point four, if your interns create an “immediate advantage” for your company, directly affecting your earnings, they must be paid at least the federal minimum wage. If you have a consulting firm, and you bill your client for the hours your intern spends working on his project, the intern is entitled to be paid.

A word to non-profitsThe FLSA litmus test for paying interns applies only to for-profit companies; non-profits can usually label their interns as volunteers. If your non-profit doesn’t have the budget for paid interns, see if there are other ways – like offering a small stipend or paying transportation costs – you can attract qualified candidates.

The FLSA rules for the for-profit sector have been in place for years, but more and more, they’re actually being enforced. There have been several high profile lawsuits in the last two years brought forth by interns who were asked to work beyond the scope of an educational experience. The interns won.

So, unless you have a very carefully planned intern program, unpaid interns can actually be something of a legal liability. But rather than worry about the minimum legal requirements, let’s learn how to maximize internships for both the student and your company. In part two of Internships 101, find out how a paid internship program can benefit  your company and actually save you money in the long run.

As far as the Mac versus PC debate goes or the question of regular or decaf… you’re on your own.

Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Paycom.



Author Bio: Newman Wells is a writer, designer and entrepreneur with over 20 years of corporate marketing experience. Passionate about B2B marketing, Newman Wells specializes in helping businesses define their value propositions by simplifying technical jargon for easier-to-digest messages that drive sales. She has spent the last two decades building successful marketing departments from the ground up and has been Paycom's director of marketing since 2005.

IRS Continues to Enforce Affordable Care Act

IRS Continues to Enforce Affordable Care Act

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The IRS recently released an information letter indicating that the IRS continues to enforce the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Dated June 30, Letter 2017-0010 was sent to a member of Congress who reached out to the IRS at the request of a constituent, a tax-exempt entity concerned it may owe an employer shared responsibility payment (ESRP) because it did not comply with the ACA rules on offering health insurance to its employees, for both financial and religious reasons.

The letter first provides a brief summary of the circumstances that might lead to a large employer owing an ESRP, and notes that there is no provision in the ACA that provides for the waiver of an ESRP.

The letter then addresses the effect of the president’s Jan. 20 executive order on the enforcement of the ACA. Titled “Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal,” the order directed federal agencies to exercise discretion permitted to them by law to reduce potential burdens imposed by the ACA.

However, it did not change the health care law. The legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by Congress; therefore, taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.

For more information on the executive order and the current tax filing season, visit https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/aca-information-center-for-tax-professionals.

What This Means for Employers

Since Congress has not yet passed a bill that would repeal the ACA, and Republicans have struggled to draft a bill that would receive majority support, employers should use caution and plan to comply with the law’s requirements unless and until the ACA is repealed and any new law’s provisions actually go into effect. Continued compliance may be required for a transition period, following passage of an ACA repeal bill, depending on the language of that legislation.

 

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Posted in ACA, Blog, Featured

Erin Maxwell

by Erin Maxwell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Erin Maxwell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, focusing on health and employee benefits laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. She previously served as assistant general counsel at Asset Servicing Group in Oklahoma City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Outside of work, Maxwell enjoys politics, historical mysteries and spending time with her family.

Missouri minimum wage

Missouri Minimum Wage to Decrease from $10 to $7.70

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An overwhelming trend in the U.S. is cities and states increasing the minimum wage employers must pay their employees. However, St. Louis, Missouri is bucking this trend – although not willingly – by decreasing its minimum wage from $10 to $7.70, effective Aug. 28.

Court Battle

In 2015, St. Louis passed an ordinance raising its minimum wage to $10, with an automatic increase to $11 scheduled for January 2018. This prompted the Missouri legislature to pass legislation to pre-empt the ordinance from taking effect. The legislation was quickly enjoined in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

In May of this year, St. Louis prevailed in the lawsuit and the minimum wage increased to $10. However, three months after the $10 minimum wage was implemented, the Missouri legislature passed another law disallowing any city in the state from having a higher minimum wage than the state, which is currently $7.70, this forcing St. Louis to reverse.

States vs. Cities

State governments dictating cities’ minimum wages is not altogether uncommon. In 2016, Alabama’s legislature shut down the Birmingham City Council’s efforts to raise its minimum wage. Similar efforts were undertaken by Ohio to block the City of Cleveland.

Other states have preemptively prohibited localities from passing minimum-wage ordinances – even before cities have commenced such efforts. Some of these states include:

  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

 

Although the St. Louis minimum wage decrease runs counter to the national trend, state legislatures prohibiting local increases is not uncommon. As more cities begin to adopt higher minimum wages, expect some state legislatures to push back.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Featured, Payroll

Jason Hines

by Jason Hines


Author Bio: Jason Hines is a Paycom compliance attorney. With more than five years’ experience in the legal field, he monitors developments in human resource laws, rules and regulations to ensure any changes are promptly updated in Paycom’s system for our clients. Previously, he was an attorney at the Oklahoma City law firm Elias, Books, Brown & Nelson. Hines earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and his juris doctor degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude. A fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Hines also enjoys exploring the great outdoors with his wife and daughter.

WOTC Tax Credits

What Tax Credits Are You Leaving on the Table?

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Federal tax credits for businesses are far from easy if you aren’t familiar with the program, and business leaders may find themselves in unfamiliar territory when it comes to their company’s eligibility for tax credits. As a leading provider of comprehensive human capital management software, we have found that the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is one Federal tax credit many leaders underutilize, meaning that they are leaving money on the table when it comes time to do their taxes.

In fact, one Paycom client in the fast-food industry found $447,000 in government-appropriated funds available once they took full advantage of the tax credits available to them. Read more about this client’s experience in our recent case study.

Is your organization is leaving money on the table?

The Purpose of WOTC

WOTC was designed to encourage employers to hire people from segments of the general population who have “consistently faced barriers to employment.”

On average, one in eight new hires potentially qualifies for the WOTC, and that number increases when it comes to the fast-food industry, in which one in four new hires is potentially eligible for the credit.

What WOTC Means for Your Company

Depending on which target group your new hire represents, the number of hours they work and the wages they earn determine the amount of the credit, you can receive up to $9,600 for each eligible new hire.

Like the client in our case study, you may find, that many of the people in your hiring pool are already eligible for the tax credit. They received an average of $1,128 per certified employee.

Who You Can Hire

Qualifying new hires can be full- or part-time workers. They must belong to specific “target groups” designated by the U.S. Department of Labor. These target groups are populations of people who are able and willing to work, but have found barriers to employment for a variety of reasons. Target groups include:

  • veterans
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients
  • SNAP recipients
  • designated community residents (living in empowerment zones or rural renewal counties)
  • summer youth employees living in designated communities
  • long-term unemployed

 

 How You Can Receive These Tax Credits

To receive these tax credits, 8850 and 9061 forms must be completed on or before the job offer and sent to your state employment agency within 28 days of the employee’s first day of work. The client in our case study was able to save 75 hours (nearly two weeks of work!) by working with Paycom to process their available tax credits.

If you’re intimidated by or unaware of Work Opportunity Tax Credits, you’re not alone. But you might be missing out by leaving money on the table. Paycom clients using its tax credits service pay nothing for the search if they are found to have eligible employees. Want to learn more about WOTC? Sign up for our August 3 webinar “What’s New With WOTC” to learn the most up-to-date information on WOTC and ask questions specific to your business.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Featured, Franchises, Hospitality, Restaurant

Rich Stupansky

by Rich Stupansky


Author Bio: Rich came to Paycom in January of 2010 from Cleveland Ohio and is the Director of Tax Credits at Paycom. Rich was instrumental in developing and creating our tax credits program. Rich has more than 12 years’ experience with federal tax credits and an extensive background in working with companies of all sizes to maximize their full tax credit potential.

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