So common sense it will never happen, mind you.
Cue the big budget movie voice-over voice: "In a world where the FLSA has deemed that the only unpaid internship that can exist is one where the intern in question can't actually be exposed to real work, a challenge has risen in the Southeast..."
Here's your common sense solution to unpaid internships. Rather than write bad guidance (only internships that don't include real work can be unpaid) and keep people guessing on whether they're going to get sued or not, write into law the following regulations on interns, which are pro-business and pro labor:
1. There will be such a thing as unpaid internships.
2. Create a classification similar to non-exempt and exempt for interns.
3. Create a schedule based on company size (either revenue or number of employees) that shows exactly how many unpaid internships a company can have. Example - a company can have 1 unpaid internship a year lasting for 12 weeks for every 500 employees in the company. Make the number less than the estimated number of unpaid internships that go on now, but still pro-business.
4. Establish a hefty fine that will be charged to a company for every unpaid internship uncovered beyond what is legally allowed - something like 20K.
5. End crazy ### language that says a company can have unpaid internships as long as they don't perform real work, which is the type of guidance you get when you don't solve the problem. The only unpaid internships that can exist fall under the guidance above - no other exceptions.
5. Let all the other labor law guide everything else from an employment perspective.
Want to know why that would work? Because you are legally defining what's acceptable from an unpaid internship perspective, and you're allowing the unpaid interns who fall under this guidance to actually do real work and get real benefit from it. You're also protecting the labor side by attempting to close loopholes that create gray areas that don't make sense.
Let's make a certain number of unpaid internships legal and attractive. Watch the competition for these spots if you went this route - it would be unbelievable, and it's actually something the government could do that would be incredibly career-development focused.
Imagine if you allowed every small business to have a 12 week internship that provided real work experience to college grads or people looking for experience in an industry.
Why are we bullsh**ing about unpaid internships by talking vaguely about the type of work they can do? Let's just limit the number that can exist and make it totally visible.