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At previous jobs, we have had a small number of interns (compared to the overall engineering staff), and they were all paid hourly. At my current job, however, the engineering staff is 1/3 interns, and they are paid a weekly salary, while being expected to put in about 80 hours per week.

Is this normal? It feels to me like these guys are getting shortchanged, and in addition to the moral implications, it would open a big liability for lawsuits, etc. I thought only 'professionals' could be exempt from overtime regulations, and an intern (being still in school, and lacking a degree) would not be able to be a 'professional'.

We do have them working on production code, and they have a wide degree of freedom/decision-making ability to get the job done.

This is my first 'startup' job, so maybe I am just naive to they way things work in a smaller company? Or am I right to question this?

If it makes any difference, my company is in San Francisco.

closed as off-topic by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Garrison Neely, Jan Doggen, jcmeloni Aug 5 '14 at 17:59

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  • 1/3 Interns ! sounds very doddgy – Pepone Aug 5 '14 at 13:46
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about navigating the workplace as described in the Help center – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 5 '14 at 14:34
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    No one of any profession should work 80 houss a week for longer than 1-2 weeks, it is unhealthy and it results in the project taking longer than if you work 40 hours a week,. There is tons of research on te effects of working too many hours and any company that wouldl expect it as a mtter of course is poorly managed and downright stupid. They are causing their product to be buggy and to take longer to get to market because tired people are not productive. They cause lots of rework and they accomplish less than if they were rested. – HLGEM Aug 5 '14 at 15:32
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    80 hours a week is not okay! I worked on salary as an intern, and they only had us there for 40 hours. Salary is not an excuse to push people past their limits. – Bobo Aug 5 '14 at 16:01
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Or am I right to question this?

Your company should be aware of the United States Fair Labor Standards Act as applies to interns.

The FLSA details internship expectations in the United States. I recommend reading the linked summary. A section which will specifically cause you concern is the following:

If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA

Your company should consult professional advice especially if you believe you have violated this. I am not a lawyer and as you can see from reading, much of this relates to whether or not the experiences are primarily educational. However given your description you might have cause for concern.


The above is why most interns, even salaried interns, are often required to fill out a timecard even just for 40 hours a week. Or may be restricted to only working 40 hours a week if the company does not want to pay overtime. This will vary by company policy of course.

It is decidedly not normal to work interns 80 hours a week and not pay overtime in the USA.

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    Thanks, this is in line with the research I have done so far. In your last sentence, though ("It is not decidedly not normal to work interns 80 hours a week and not pay overtime in the USA."), I first read it without the first 'not', but then re-read it. Do you mean to say that having interns work 80 hours without overtime happens commonly? – new startupper Aug 5 '14 at 4:18
  • @newstartupper - I'm reasonably certain that one of those "not"'s is a typo. It's very awkward phrasing otherwise. – aroth Aug 5 '14 at 9:35
  • Oops, I'm not not sure why there was an extra knot in that post. – enderland Aug 5 '14 at 11:19
  • Maybe an anonymous tip to vallywag might be in order here. – Pepone Aug 5 '14 at 13:47
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That is most definitely not normal. 1/3 the company as interns? What? That makes no sense. Are these interns year round or just come in for the summer? If they are full time how the hell do they do school too?

On a bigger note, just because you are salaried and a "professional", that does not mean you are supposed to work 80+ hours a week. It's not only unethical, but illegal. If you are salarid that means you a non-exempt. In short, it means you are given a fix amount for 40 hours a week. If you need to work extra, you are not meant to be paid over time, with the stipulation that those extra hours are not standard.

So, for example, if you had a huge deadline and you worked 80 hours a week for a week or two, well that's short term. The compansation for that being that you could leave early some days when not busy and still be paid the full 40 hours. If you are going to be required to work a lot of extra hours, then you must be approved for over time and compensated. Exempt employees (non-salaried) get overtime for anything over 40 by defualt (though most companies forbide these employees from doing so anyways)

I don't know what's going on at your company but it sounds like they are just trying to milk their "free" labor for all they're worth.

  • It is just 1/3 of the engineering staff that are interns, there are a few more non-engineering full-timers that probably brings the total ratio to about 1/4 interns. These interns are just here for the summer, but I understand that we are trying to get more for the fall semester (from schools that have their students do internships/co-ops on alternate semesters). – new startupper Aug 5 '14 at 15:33
  • That is still a lot imo. Though i suppose the bigger question is what do they think of it. If they love what they are doing and actively seek those hours and projects it might be a good thing but I can't imagine anyone, intern or not, to enjoy working 80 hour weeks for minimal pay... – Jen Aug 5 '14 at 17:57

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