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Employee Versus Unpaid Intern — Understanding Your Rights

“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

The Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws guarantee most workers a minimum wage and overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. However, there are exceptions to this. One of those exceptions is for unpaid internships. If you are properly classified as an unpaid intern, you do not have to be compensated for your services under the FLSA. Some employers abuse that exception and attempt to deny employees proper pay by calling them unpaid interns.

At Costello, Mains & Silverman, LLC, our employment law attorneys protect the rights of workers like you. If your employer is taking advantage of you, an experienced lawyer can help. If you have questions about the rights of unpaid interns under wage and hour law, call us at 866-944-3371 or contact us online.

Do You Deserve Compensation Under The Law?

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.” What they are really 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. Internships are employment except under specific circumstances.

The Legal Test For Unpaid Internships

The United States Department of Labor has issued a six-part test to determine if an internship can be unpaid. All six parts must be met or the intern is entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The criteria are as follows:

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  • 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.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  • 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 conditions were not met, you may be entitled to compensation under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the federal wage and hour law), as well as under state law. Our firm, Costello, Mains & Silverman, LLC, represents workers in collective and class action wage and hour law, including cases involving unpaid internships. Contact us today.