Posts Tagged interns

There Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues

Although we look forward to the summer weather, when it comes to liability, the warmer months are not always fun in the sun. The season can bring with it some particular challenges that your clients will want to be mindful of.

Workers’ compensation

We’re all aware that Worker’s comp provides coverage for a business if an employee is injured while and because that employee is working. However, the same rules do not apply for a summer event. An injury that occurs while an employee is voluntarily participating in an employer-sponsored athletic event or team generally is not compensable. Should litigation arise from an injury incurred during a social event, the outcome in that context will depend upon factors such as the extent to which the employer sponsors, controls or participates in the activity or whether the employer requires participation.

We’re not recommending that a business not hold special summer activities as they can contribute to improvement in employee health and morale. We are saying, it’s important to help your clients understand the extent to which their Worker’s compensation coverage protects them and the instances that it does not.


Summer parties, particularly where alcohol is served, can be the cause of claims of sexual and other forms of harassment. Employers should think through how summer parties will be conducted and might consider a harassment refresher before the event. Not to mention reviewing their liquor liability coverage and possibly securing employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). This coverage can help protect a business and the business owner from litigation resulting from improper workplace behavior, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, discrimination or wrongful termination.

Unpaid interns

Interns can bring significant value to a company. The balance, though, is that companies must exercise caution and be careful to ensure that there is a clear difference between an intern and a regular, compensated employee. Otherwise, business owners could be looking at several unexpected expenses.

The circumstances under which a business can utilize “unpaid interns” or “volunteers” are very limited. As with independent contractors, simply classifying individuals as “unpaid” or “volunteer” doesn’t mean that’s what they actually are.

Even if a college student agrees to the terms of an unpaid internship, it does not mean that they can’t later come back and seek unpaid wages after the internship is complete. And, if the environment in which they were working doesn’t meet certain criteria, they could win their argument because of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.

Generally, an internship position may be unpaid if six criteria are satisfied:

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
  • The internship is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of existing staff;
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and, on occasion, the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the internship; and
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

These criteria, developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, are good guideposts for employers to follow, although individual states may have their own unique requirements.

Although our minds may tend to go on summer vacation, proper insurance coverage never should. Doing a little seasonal “legwork” to help ensure insurance policies are keeping pace with client activities can make all the difference.

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