The tight job market of recent years has led to the development of an “intern economy” in which more and more workers feel they have no choice but to take an unpaid internship to gain work experience. Traditionally, internships were a way for college students to learn about a field and gain experience in it. More and more, however, the duties of many unpaid interns have come to mirror those of regular employees the main difference being that the so-called interns receive no pay or benefits. Several recent court cases have called this practice into question and, in at least one instance, found it illegal.
The U.S. Department of Labor uses a six factor test to determine whether interns are employees who are entitled to compensation. The test can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm. In general, to be unpaid, the interns must receive training that is similar to what they would receive in a vocational school and the company that provides the training should receive no immediate benefit from the activities of the trainees.
Unpaid interns who should have been paid as employees may be able to recover unpaid regular wages and overtime as well as any applicable penalties. If you believe you have failed to receive compensation for an internship, contact the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver by email or phone at 323-648-6676 for a free consultation.