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Changes to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that require that employees receive an annual salary of not less than $23,660, among other requirements, or be eligible for overtime pay, may affect the employment policies of some doctoral internship sites, according to APA's General Counsel Office.

In response, internship sites must determine whether the law considers their particular interns to be "employees" and therefore subject to FLSA, says APA Deputy General Counsel Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD.

Though some graduate students contend that interns would benefit from meeting the FLSA requirements for exempt employees and increasing their pay to $23,660, others are concerned that such a required wage increase might financially pinch sites and limit the number of internship slots available.

An initial analysis by APA suggests that interns in programs that meet APA accreditation guidelines may not be employees for purposes of the FLSA, Childress-Beatty says.

However, because there is some variation between internship sites, such as the amount of time interns spend with patients and what kind of administrative duties they have, internship site officials and attorneys need to assess each program individually to verify compliance with the law. And interns should ask their human resources directors if they have questions about compliance, Childress-Beatty adds.

"Since internship sites vary considerably and the issues are complex and fact-specific, administrators at each institution will need to assess their status and come up with a plan to meet the law's requirements," Childress-Beatty says.

Generally, she says, factors that should be considered to determine if an intern will not be considered an employee subject to FLSA include:

  • The training or internship is similar to what would be given in a vocational school.
  • The training is for the benefit of the intern.
  • The interns work under close supervision and do not displace regular employees.
  • The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns, and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded.
  • The interns are not entitled to a job at the end of the training period.
  • The employer and interns understand that interns are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training or the internship.

For more information on the Fair Labor Standards Act, go to www.dol.gov/esa/whd/flsa. To read the APA statement, visit the APPIC Web site at www.appic.org/training/7_7_FLSA_Posting_10-13-04.html.

-K. KERSTING