“Unpaid” Summer Internships May Violate Federal Labor Laws

With the summer approaching, many college students seek out internships. Frequently these are “unpaid,” with the intended purpose that the student gain necessary experience in order to later obtain a paying job in his or her field of interest. However, stringent rules define just when an employer must pay an intern. The failure to follow these guidelines may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) entitling the “unpaid intern” to compensation including, but not limited to back wages and damages.

Consulting with an experienced Atlanta wage and hour attorney before starting an internship is a good idea if you have any employment related questions, especially concerning your right to pay.

As set forth by the Department of Labor, a number of factors determine whether you should be compensated for your hours worked.

To qualify as an “unpaid internship” the position:

• Must be similar to training that would be provided in an educational environment;
• Must be for the benefit of the intern;
• The intern does not take the place of a regular employee and works under the close supervision of existing staff;
• The employer provides training that isn’t immediately advantageous to the company; and on occasion the intern’s activities may hinder the employer’s operations;
• The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship; and • Both the intern and the employer understand that the intern is not entitled to pay for the time spent working as an intern.

If your work provides benefits to your employer – and is not similar to the type of work you would perform in an educational setting – in many cases you may be entitled to pay (minimum wage and even overtime.)

State laws are similar to the federal guidelines, but have slight variations so it’s important to check with a knowledgeable wage and hour attorney if you have questions about your particular situation.

For more information about internships or if you have any wage and hour questions, please contact the top Georgia wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.