Unpaid internship, The new employee, and injury – April 4th

Here are the HR Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center:


Help! My employee injured themselves while moving equipment in the office. What steps do I need to take?

We’re sorry to hear your employee injured themselves. Workplace injuries can be extremely stressful for both employers and employees, so it makes things easier when you have a process in place on how to handle these each time.

Most important is to make sure the employee is able to seek immediate care if needed. On your end this means assuring them that they are permitted to leave work and seek care, and getting them a ride if appropriate.

Make sure you have on-hand a list of urgent care providers that are approved by your workers’ compensation insurer so that it’s easy for the employee to get necessary coverage from the start. Give that information, as well as your workers’ compensation insurance company’s information, to your employee so they can choose where to seek care and file a claim with your insurance company if they choose to do so.

And, of course, you need to document the injury. Your employee should fill out an injury report form that details what happened (CEDR members can contact us for one if they don’t have one). If there were other employees who witnessed the incident, we recommend that you have them provide statements as well.

Finally, report the incident to your worker’s compensation carrier on the day of the incident. Do this even if the employee is saying they are perfectly fine, and even if they are insisting they won’t be filing a claim. They may end up changing their mind in the days to come, And your insurance coverage will have reporting rules that result in a lack of coverage if you don’t report it in a timely manner.

A patient’s teenager wants to intern in our office during the summer. What’s the correct way to bring them on board?

Ah, internships. A staple of our society and one of the most misunderstood HR topics. Before you welcome this “intern” to your practice, read on!

We’re guessing the idea is to bring this person on as an unpaid intern. Well, this is only possible if the internship passes the Department of Labor’s test. Yes, there’s a test for this. It’s meant to answer one important question: who is benefiting the most from the internship?

You might think, “Well, the teenager is the one asking to do this, and sure I could use some help with data entry, answering phones, and scheduling appointments, but they’ll be learning new life and office skills so the teenager is clearly the one that’s benefitting here.” But that’s not exactly how it works.

If the individual is primarily going to be performing work that employees normally would (which largely benefits the practice)…they’re actually just an employee. This means they need to be hired as one and paid for their time.

For this to truly qualify (legally) as an unpaid internship, the focus of the internship needs to be education for the intern. This means it’s either tied to a school program for which the student gets academic credit, or, you are creating an educational internship program of your own.

This means you are providing the type of training that the intern would expect to receive in an academic class. This can include performing some work that employees otherwise would be doing, but that cannot be the majority of what the intern does each day. If anything, having an intern there should be more of a disruption than a help to the business.

The rules for internships are complicated and mishandling an internship can be extremely risky. We recommend reviewing our blog post on this topic which covers the DOL’s test and talking to an HR expert before making any decisions.

There’s a candidate that I’ve made an offer to and really want to bring on board. Their only hesitation is that they have a trip planned in two months and our vacation time doesn’t kick in until 6 months of employment. Can I make an exception for them and let them use paid time off for this trip?

We understand why you’re willing to make an exception so that you don’t lose this candidate. Hiring is still a struggle and finding a great candidate can feel like a stroke of luck.

Note that it’s one thing to allow the time off, it’s another to let them access paid time off prior to other new hires. We typically wouldn’t recommend allowing the employee to take the time off as paid if they wouldn’t be eligible for the paid time under your policies. 

That said, there’re a few things you should consider before offering them the time off.

It’s not unusual at all for a candidate to already have some time off needs prior to starting with you, as their life wasn’t on-hold before they applied to work with you. Avoid the temptation to be annoyed at them for asking for time off right from the start. This is someone being upfront with you about commitments they made prior to being your employee and being subject to your time off policies.

We recommend being flexible and reasonable when these requests come up. In the long run, it’s usually easier to allow the time off than it is to try to find a new candidate with a totally clear schedule. Plus, if you allow this employee to take their planned vacation, that impacts the employee’s experience and employee engagement. They’re likely going to be starting out with gratitude and a really positive attitude.

We talk a lot about consistency when applying workplace policies, and this is no different. Take some consideration of how you have treated similar team members in the past. If you recently denied a similar request from someone else, expect some backlash if you suddenly grant it to the new hire.

If you’re normally a bit of a stickler around strict adherence to your time off policies, keep office morale in mind if you appear to be doing something differently for the new employee. You may want to communicate to the rest of the team that this person already had the trip planned before they started working. Employees usually completely understand how that circumstance is a bit unique and are less likely to question it happening.

Every circumstance where this comes up is going to be a bit unique, in terms of the timeline for the time off, what the position is, what your current staffing needs are, and what the hiring market is like. If you’re unsure the best way to handle a request like this, give your CEDR Solution Center advisors a call!

At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Apr 3, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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