Unpaid Internships

Unpaid Internships

Yesterday, an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times addressed the subject of unpaid internships in an artcile entitled Unpaid Interns, Complicit Colleges.

Most for-profit companies believe that unpaid internships are legal as long as their interns receive academic credit. However, this convenient fallacy is simply not true. In fact, under both federal and California law, interns are considered to be employees unless all of the following six factors apply:

    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;


  • 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; and



  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.


Because internships will rarely satisfy these factors, most interns are entitled to compensation, including minimum wage and overtime, and their employers are subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Since most colleges and universities are complicit in helping employers exploit their students and government agencies lack the resources to crack down on employers, students need to take matters into their own hands. Unpaid interns should consult with employment lawyers, like the Law Offices of David S. Levy, to explore their rights to unpaid wages and penalties

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