Lawmaker questions consistency in crackdown on unpaid interns

The ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked the White House to report on whether its recruitment of unpaid interns is compliant with labor laws.

Earlier in April, the Labor Department announced it would crack down on firms that failed to pay interns in accordance with the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. "If the administration insists on pushing these requirements on private firms, it raises the question of whether the administration intends to simultaneously ensure governmentwide compliance with FLSA both in federal agencies and the White House," wrote Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in an April 12 letter to President Obama.

Under FLSA, internships can be unpaid if six conditions are met, including: Participants are not used as substitutes for paid employees, and if the programs are "for the benefit of the trainees," comparable to vocational or educational instruction, and give the employer no immediate advantage.

According to the White House Web site, its three- to four-month internships are unpaid positions and "applicants should expect to work at least Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m." The FAQ section of the site says "the White House Internship Program is highly competitive and we are experiencing great enthusiasm this year."

There is a statutory provision for unpaid internships in the federal government -- as long as interns are students, said John Palguta, vice president of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group interested in workforce issues. The White House Internship Program is "a different animal" because it welcomes non-students on board, Palguta said.

Issa called on the White House to detail how many unpaid interns and volunteers it had this year and outline whether its internships meet FLSA criteria for unpaid positions. He also asked the White House to calculate the potential liability it has incurred since 2005 for any failure to pay minimum wages to interns.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment and the Office of Personnel Management could not be reached immediately.

Alyssa Rosenberg contributed to this report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.