Overtime Requirements For Unpaid Interns

With spring approaching and summer not far off, employers and students begin thinking about summer jobs, including summer internships.   Many employers have gotten in trouble for using “unpaid interns” as a way around paying hard working employees the wages they’re entitled to.  The good news is that employers are slowly recognizing that strict rules exist concerning when it’s fair to offer an unpaid internship and that it may be a violation of the federal fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if they fail to pay adequate wages.

Before you look for an unpaid internship, or entry-level job, it’s important to understand a few basic rules about what type of position may be properly categorized as an unpaid internship and when your employer’s required to pay you for your work.

The United States Department of Labor sets forth specific rules concerning when an internship can be unpaid.  For example, when an internship is unpaid, the company must provide the individual training – the intern can’t just be working to benefit the company.   In some cases, the employer may not derive any advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.  Additionally, it’s important that an intern not displace regular employees, but intead must work under close supervision of existing staff.

The Department of Labor sets forth additional unpaid internship guidelines.   The bottom line – if you’re working solely to benefit a company without receiving any training – it’s likely you are entitled to receive pay for your efforts.

Overtime cases involving unpaid internships require analysis of federal statutes, U.S. Department of Labor regulations, and court decisions.  I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.


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