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How to Know If Your “Unpaid Internship” is Legal

The Department of Labor Rules and Cases Governing Unpaid Internships

Lawyers Protecting Exploited Interns Nationwide

The most frequently referenced case is the Fox Searchlight case from the summer of 2013 where Judge William H. Pauley III held that interns were “employees” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and therefore entitled to receive minimum wage and overtime compensation. (Click here to read the decision). Judge Pauley utilized the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) test that stemmed from a Supreme Court decision in 1947, concerning railroad trainees, in his decision. The facts of that decision differ significantly from the economic realities of internships in the modern context.

The U.S. Department of Labor utilizes a six (6) part test to determine whether an unpaid internship is legal. The test, however, applies only to internships in the private sector. According to the DOL, an unpaid internship is only legal if the following conditions are met:

  1. Is it educational? The internship is structured as training, similar to what the recipient would experience in an educational setting—the internship can, however, include actual operations of the facilities of the company providing the internship.
  2. Who gets the primary benefit? The internship is designed primarily to benefit the intern, not the company providing the internship.
  3. Displacing employees? The intern is not taking the place of regular employees, but is in addition to regular employees.
  4. Employer gets no immediate benefit. The company providing the internship obtains no immediate benefit from having the intern at the facility—in fact, DOL regulations indicate that the intern may actually interfere with normal business operations.
  5. No Guaranteed Job. The internship does not necessarily include an offer of paid employment when it ends.
  6. It’s Agreed Upon. Both parties understand and agree that the intern has no right to be paid during the term of the internship.

However, as Judge Pauley pointed out, there may be other factors that may matter. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has accepted the appeal and will likely provide extra guidance within the next few months on what other factors may be important in determining legal vs. illegal internships.

Fair Pay for Interns!!!

If you have been unfairly treated during an internship, we can help. At the offices of Leeds Brown Law, P.C., and Virginia and Ambinder, LLP, we have combined our resources to protect the rights of unpaid interns. We have filed class action lawsuits to protect unpaid interns, and are gathering evidence and information to prepare and file additional claims. We will serve as co-counsel in litigation across the United States.

Contact Our Offices

If you spent time as an unpaid intern, but received little or no educational benefit, we can help you seek compensation as part of class action litigation. To learn more about the litigation, and find out whether you qualify for a potential claim, call us at (516) 873-9550 or (212)943-9080 (toll free at 800-585-4658), or contact us online.

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