In a perfect scenario, summer internships serve as a two-way street to benefit both the employer and intern. One trains and delegates while the other gains valuable experience and assists the company in completing various tasks. Each can learn from the other and develop positive, professional relationships. When things don’t go according to plan, and interns that seemed like innocuous, temporary hires make bad choices, suddenly there’s a lot on the line – even more so if you aren’t protected with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).

Take, for example, the outrageous blunder a careless intern from the National Transportation Safety Board made in July, 2013. He acted outside his scope when he confirmed to reporters at a Bay Area TV station a racially insensitive list of fake names of crew members that perished from an Asiana Airlines jet crash. These names were read aloud during a live newscast.

How much trouble can summer interns really cause?

In most cases, very little. Ideally, they conduct themselves in a professional manner because they’re eager to learn about a profession they’d like to pursue and from mentors who can impart useful knowledge. The reality is they can lack experience and loyalty to the company, and just one slip by an untrained and/or unsupervised intern might lead to a host of problems. Any red flags should be caught in the recruiting process. Regardless of an intern’s qualifications, it’s important at the interview to carefully assess their background to determine if he or she would be a good fit for your company. If you notice any personality snags or misconduct once you’ve hired someone, swiftly take action before the situation can escalate.

What are some of the red flags to look for?

  • Indifference or a negative attitude
  • Repeated tardiness  
  • Questionable contact with other employees, interns, or even supervisors
  • Spending too much time on personal devices

Top 5 Ways to Minimize the Risk of Hiring Interns Who Misbehave

  1. Conduct the intern recruiting process with the mindset that you’re hiring a long-term employee. It’s possible that an internship will lead to a permanent position, so this process should be conducted thoroughly and professionally. 

  2. Interns should be trained as if they’re in an educational environment. They should perform tasks that regular employees do rather than ones that involve menial work. A small amount of brewing coffee and collating files is reasonable, but if your interns are inundated with this type of work, they aren’t gaining valuable professional experience and will likely become resentful. Conversely, be careful that the workload isn’t too strenuous that it really represents that of a paid, full-time employee. That creates liabilities, too

  3. Train hiring managers and staff on how to properly manage interns and, conversely, train the interns on proper business etiquette and safety protocols. 

  4. Avoid common pitfalls, such as: leaving interns alone with clients, allowing them access to confidential company databases, and permitting them to drive company cars even if it’s for company purposes.

  5. Purchase the appropriate insurance coverage to protect your company. Harassment – for example – of or by another employee can lead to serious liability under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Aside from following this protocol as closely as possible, the best way to avoid hiring a misbehaving intern is to follow your instinct. If you notice red flags in the recruiting process, it’s highly unlikely that the candidate is a good fit for your company.

Your HUB broker can guide you on your way to guaranteeing you have proper insurance coverage to minimize the consequences that intern misconduct could have on your company.