“Businesses have taken advantage of unpaid internships to an extent that is blocking the opportunities for young people to move on into paid employment.” – Hillary Clinton.
Have you recently worked as an unpaid intern? Were you getting coffee and making copies rather than learning? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. Many corporations now use “unpaid internships” to recruit and work with students and recent graduates. These companies suggest that they are paying the interns in “experience.” Really what they are obtaining is free labor.
While the law does allow for unpaid internships under certain circumstances, these companies are often illegally exploiting students and entry level workers. As an initial consideration, all for profit private sector interns must be paid unless the internship fits the exception. The United States Department of Labor has issued a six part test and all six part must be met for an internship to be unpaid. Those six are:
(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.
If you have worked as an unpaid intern and any of the six were not met, you may be entitled to compensation due to potential violations of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the federal wage and hour law), as well as under state law. If you have questions about the rights of unpaid interns under wage and hour law, contact the Wage & Hour law firm of Costello & Mains, which does collective and class action wage & hour law. You can reach us at 800-421-0212 or through our website.