Legality of Unpaid Internships

College internships have been a right of passage for students, allowing students to gain valuable job experience in a working environment, usually in exchange for college credits. Internships are generally meant to benefit the students participating in them. The recession has tightened the job market, leading many employers to try and make due with less resources, most notable by cutting staff and reallocating job duties to maintain productivity.

This has included replacing the job duties of paid employees with interns. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, this behavior is illegal. The US Government has put out guidelines for internships, which must satisfy the following six conditions in order to be considered an actual internship:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

We understand that the job market is difficult to crack, and that college students should be actively engaged in finding employment opportunities, internships that do not meet all of these guidelines take advantage of this group.

While college students are often hesitant to come forward about employers that violate internship policies for fear that they will alienate future employers, companies that violate intern policies should be held accountable under the law.

If you believe you may have been in an internship that violates these requirements, you may be entitled to damages under the FLSA. Call us today to evaluate your rights. Also, be sure to read the Department Of Labor’s Intern Fact Sheet.