Labor Laws and Unpaid Internships

There was a good article in yesterday’s New York Times about an issue I’m surprised has taken this long to be investigated: the possible illegality of unpaid internships. Apparently some people are finally getting concerned that unpaid internships at for-profit companies constitute free labor, and are therefore a violation of minimum-wage laws.

As it turns out, the Department of Labor has laid out six criteria for determining whether an internship can be legally be unpaid. The internship must:

1. Give training similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic
educational instruction, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the
2. Be for the benefit of the intern.
3. Not replace regular employees with interns.
4. Give the employer no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees/interns (and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded)
5. Not guarantee the interns a job at the end
6. Feature a mutual understanding by employer/intern that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

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