Rules To Know Before You Agree To An Unpaid Internship

Summer is nearly here and with the season comes an annual influx of students looking for internships. Before you take a job as an intern – either paid or unpaid – it’s critical to understand the laws affecting these positions. If you should be getting paid for your work but aren’t, your employer may be in violation of federal or state labor laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or your state’s equivalent. We’ve put together a list of some common considerations, but if you have questions about your particular situation, it’s always a good idea to talk to a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour attorney right away.

Generally, the FLSA requires that all workers be paid minimum wage and all non-exempt workers collect overtime pay at a rate of one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all time worked in excess of 40 hours in any one work-week. The FLSA defines who is an employee (and thus entitled to these pay considerations) very broadly. Only in very narrow categories can an employer not pay a worker.

An employer can have an “unpaid intern” only if the intern satisfies the following criteria as set forth by the Department of Labor (DOL):

1. 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;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. 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;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and 6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of these factors are not met, then your employer must pay you to work, just like any other employee. Many employers may mistakenly not pay seasonal college workers or other employees claiming that they don’t have to because they are interns. This is simply not the case. Several high profile unpaid internship lawsuits have been filed across the country where workers were falsely denied pay. If your work benefits the company and is something that a regular employee would typically do, then there’s a good chance that you should be paid too.

For more information about internships and pay, or any other wage and hour question, please contact the top Georgia FLSA attorneys Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.