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Should I be a Paid Employee Instead of an Unpaid Intern?

Many companies offer internships as a way for students to gain experience in a field without having to actually go get a job in that field. Many business programs even require that individuals complete an internship as part of their study. However, recent litigation has exposed abuse of unpaid interns. Many individuals are serving in unpaid positions as interns when, legally, they should be getting a paycheck just like any other employee.

So how can you tell if your position is classified correctly? Recent guidelines issued by the Department of Labor mandate that a few criteria must be met for a position to fall into the category of unpaid internship. The position must:

  • Benefit the individual
  • Not displace a paid position
  • Not give the employer a direct advantage
  • Provide training similar to what would be given in an educational environment
  • Make clear to both parties that the intern is not entitled to wages
  • Make clear that the intern is not entitled to a job following the internship

Legally compliant internship programs look much more like vocational training than an actual job. If you are working on projects for clients, doing work that fits the description of a paid employee, or if your employer has not made it clear that your internship is an unpaid position or guaranteed you a job at the conclusion, it's possible that you should be getting at least the minimum wage instead of just a few hours of credit.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 35 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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