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Section 3.02.11: Internships, Department of Labor Regulations, and Social Work Education Guidelines

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) established regulations regarding internship programs in relation to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm). Interns at several for-profit companies (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Harper’s Bazaar, Warner Music Group, and Atlantic Records, to name a few) filed suit for unfair labor practices. A few courts have decided that the companies were out of compliance with Department of Labor regulations and needed to pay interns for their work.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is aware that this has raised concern among some social work programs. Field education, as articulated in the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, is clearly within the guidelines of the Department of Labor regulations for an educational internship and does not require payment.

Social work field education meets the following stipulations related to the FLSA:
- Field education is associated with an academic program at an accredited institution of higher learning.
- Field education is structured around a classroom or academic experience, with articulated learning objectives/competencies.
- The college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit.
- The field education experience is supervised by social work program personnel; there is an agreement between the program and the field site as well as a learning contract between the student and the site.
- The Social Work Field Education program is meant to be solely educational and provide training to prepare the professional social worker. It is not meant to supplant or replace existing employees of social work within the field education program site.
- The field placement is meant to provide an educational and training opportunity to the social worker and is not meant to provide any immediate advantage to the employer or the field site.

Please note that these six criteria included in the DOL regulations must be well documented and defensible for unpaid internship positions. CSWE encourages all field coordinators and program directors to fully understand the Department of Labor fact sheet and share this information liberally with students and field site personnel.

(CSWE
Setting the Record Straight, February 25, 2014)

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