Unpaid “Internships” Might be Illegal
A common labor law violation is the use of unpaid “interns”.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states very clearly that that employers cannot pay an employee below minimum wage NOR can employees “waive” their rights under the FLSA.
Employers cannot get around this by calling the work “volunteer” work or an “internship” unless very specific criteria has been met. (Bona fide volunteer work need not be paid, but this applies to things like helping the Red Cross out during a flood, not taking the boss’ suit to the dry cleaner or doing data entry work in the back office).
The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined a list of specific criteria, ALL of which MUST be met in order for an internship to be unpaid.
(1) The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be offered at a vocational school;
(2) The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
(3) The trainees do not displace regular employees and works under close supervision;
(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 completion of the training period; and
(6) The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.