Unpaid internships have picked up some unwanted mainstream media attention lately. Recently, a former unpaid intern filed a lawsuit against Harper’s Bazaar, alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour laws. She’s also hoping to make it into a class action against other Hearst publications (Cosmo, Seventeen, and Good Housekeeping).
For guidance see DOL’s Wage and Hour Division: Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act which provides “general information to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to ‘for-profit’ private sector employers.”
According to the DOL, internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met:
The Test For Unpaid Interns
The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:
- 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.
If ALL of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does NOT exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.
See also, The New York Times ran a “Room for Debate” feature, with differing opinions answering Do Unpaid Internships Exploit College Students?And Phillip Miles’ employment law blog, Lawffice Space, “The 6 Requirements for Unpaid Internships.”
- Unpaid Internships: Valuable Experience or Exploitation? (indianapilf.wordpress.com)
- Fox Internship Lawsuit Heats Up As Lawyers Seek To Include Entire Fox Entertainment Group: Intern uprising at Fox gets more serious (HuffingtonPost)
- One Former Harper’s Bazaar Intern Is Standing Up For Unpaid Interns Everywhere (businessinsider.com)
- On the Legality of Unpaid Internships(And: ATL seeks a paid intern.) (abovethelaw.com)