In this economy, many people have to take unpaid internships to build experience so that they can get a job. When the internships are truly learning experiences that benefit the interns, this is a perfectly legal and appropriate practice. However, federal and state law forbids for-profit companies from labeling people as “interns,” and then treating them as unpaid employees.
If your unpaid “internship” requires you to make coffee or engage in menial work, your rights are being violated and you may be entitled to payment of wages The law is very clear. If any one of the following six factors are not present during your unpaid internship, your employer is violating federal law and you may have a case to recover unpaid wages:
1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
If you have an unpaid internship with a for profit employer, and you believe that any one of the above-listed factors is not being met, your employer may be violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. Please contact us to discuss your legal options.