Unpaid Internships and the Fair Labor Standards Act

I can’t count how many listings for ENTERPRISE web development, design and production projects that include such things as “seeking intern” or “interns welcome”.  Any number of hastily compiled eBooks on “how to take your great idea to the web” are also not shy about recommending “rounding up some interns” to do work for free.  And in some cases we are talking about companies that should absolutely know better such as those in the legal and financial sectors.

I’m not a lawyer so I’m not going to make any claims about giving legal advice, but I can quote the US Department of Labor on the topic of Unpaid Internships.  For a piece of federal documentation, it is actually quite clear. The points which most of the “offers” I alluded to above inevitably fail at are:

  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;
Willful violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.  Violations or complaints of the FLSA may be filed with the Department of Labor.


Source: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Department of Labor Fact Sheets.

Photo Credit:  Klearchos Kapoutsis




You may also like...

Leave a Reply