Internships As Free Labor? Not Necessarily According To DOL

The days of filing paper and serving coffee for free may be over.

Today’s harsh economy has students accepting unpaid internships for summer employment and, in the alternative, has employers possibly taking advantage of these students.

The United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, in an attempt to reduce the number of interns illegally working for free, has created a test that must be met before interns may work without compensation. The six (6) criteria are: 1) the intern must gain similar training to what he or she would be given in an educational environment; 2) the intern must not displace regular employees; 3) the intern must receive close supervision; 4) the intern must be the primary beneficiary of the activity; 5)the intern must not provide immediate benefits to the employer; and 6) the intern must understand that he or she is neither entitled to a paid position after completion of the program nor entitled to any compensation.

In other words, if you, as an intern, are performing “real” work and contributing to a commercial enterprise, then the minimum wage and possibly overtime standards will most likely apply to you.

Timothy P. Dronson is an attorney with the law firm of Kent & McBride, P.C. and Of Counsel with the Overtime Law Center. He may be reached at Kent & McBride at 267-702-1712 and the Overtime Law Center at 800-590-4116, or tdronson@kentmcbride.com.