In the Trenches: Hiring an Intern

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on June 8, 2011
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It’s summer, and that means that all around the country, college kids are getting out of school and looking for something to do. For some, that means getting a boring summer job, but we’ve decided to try to make things a little more exciting for one local student. We’re hiring an intern.

In fact, he starts this week. He’s halfway done with college, and we’re giving him the opportunity to learn how a small business runs. Along the way, he’ll learn a great deal about air travel as we train him on using the reservation systems and searching for fares. It’s great for him and good for us, too.

As for actually hiring an intern, it turns out it’s not all that simple. Some employers get into the internship game because they want free labor. That’s not why we did it. In fact, we’re paying our intern. But if you want an unpaid intern, it might not be legal in some states.

From a federal perspective, it’s generally OK. The Department of Labor has set rules on when an intern can be unpaid:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the employer’s facilities, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students.
  3. The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation.
  4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and, on occasion, the employer’s operations actually may be impeded.
  5. The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  6. The employer and the trainees or students understand that the latter are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Though our role might very well fit into these guidelines, California (as usual) doesn’t always look at this the same way. In fact, I got confused enough reading the rules that I decided it wasn’t worth bothering trying to get a free worker out of it. So we’ll pay our intern. Besides, I’m hoping that getting paid will be an incentive to outperform.

While it might actually slow us down for a couple weeks as we get the new guy up and running, that’s OK. It’s always worthwhile to help get the next generation interested in the airline world. Besides, I’m sure he’ll be contributing in no time.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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