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Fewer unpaid internships to be offered, report says

Here’s some good news for this summer’s crop of new graduates: If you’re lucky enough to find a summer internship, it’s more likely to be one that’s paid.

According to a report in USA Today, many employers are getting rid of unpaid internships or converting them to paid programs because they’re getting hit with lawsuits that claim interns should be compensated for the work they do. Labor lawyers tell the newspaper that companies are not willing to run the risk of offering them.

Companies offering internships must follow certain rules, according to the Department of Labor. Unpaid internships, for example, must provide training and not simply benefit the company, according to a 2010 Labor Department fact sheet on internship programs. And there are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation.

Some firms are modifying internship programs by rotating interns among several departments, the article said.

Unpaid internships became more prevalent as employers’ budgets were squeezed during the Great Recession. Workers who had lost their jobs were eager to work without pay, but the set-ups encourage employers to replace low-level employees with unpaid students, Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute told USA Today. (Msnbc.com contributor Eve Tahmincioglu wrote about this issue in 2010).

There are about 1.5 million internships in the U.S. each year, and nearly half of them are unpaid, the newspaper said.