Do Unpaid Interns Have Employment Rights?

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Do Unpaid Interns Have Employment Rights?

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Internships have been proven greatly beneficial to college students, recent graduates, and anyone trying to get their foot in the door of a new industry. Whether you’re grabbing coffee or contributing ideas and problem-solving skills in a meeting room, first-hand corporate experience of any kind can be influential for an eager worker. Because they are not protected under the FSLA (Fair Labor Standards Act) it can be confusing to discern what employment rights unpaid interns have or do not have. If you need legal advice or representation regarding an internship in Georgia, an Atlanta employment rights attorney can help.

Are Unpaid Internships Legal?

Paid internships are becoming the norm, but are unpaid internships still out there? And are they legal? In short, yes unpaid internships are legal across the United States under certain conditions. The following is a list of stipulations that allow an unpaid internship arrangement to be considered legal. If these conditions are not met, the internship is not following state laws and therefore is illegal.

  • The intern has to be the primary beneficiary of the internship
  • Both the intern and the employer should understand that there is no expectation of compensation in exchange for work
  • The internship must provide educational training similar to a school or learning environment
  • The intern should be learning something and/or receiving educational credit
  • The internship shouldn’t interfere with schooling
  • Your other staff should not be inconvenienced or displaced due to the internship
  • Both the intern and the employer should understand that there is no guarantee that the internship will result in full-time employment for the intern

Other requirements may be considered and vary from state to state.

What is the Difference Between a Paid and Unpaid Internship?

In general, no two internships are alike. Because every industry and business operates in different ways, the work that interns do will vary greatly from company to company. Some companies may assign their interns tasks like taking lunch orders, taking out the trash, sitting in on meetings, and taking notes. Other companies may delegate projects and assignments to interns to get a different perspective on the work they are doing.

Unpaid and paid internships are similar in that they can be of any nature. The biggest difference between the two is that a paid intern is making wages so they must be considered an employee. Unpaid interns are not financially compensated so are not considered employees.

What Employment Rights Do Unpaid Interns Have?

Unpaid interns do not have the same employment rights as salaried or paid employees because they are not technically considered employees of the company. However, unpaid interns are generally protected from discrimination in the workplace. An employer may face repercussions for discriminating against an intern based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, age, or veteran status.

Because they are not considered employees under the FLSA, unpaid interns do not have the same extent of protection in the workplace. Contact a lawyer for issues related to an unpaid internship.

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