Many college students may be preparing to begin a summer internship in the coming weeks here in San Antonio. Internships are often a great way for young people to get some work experience under their belts and learn more about their interests and skills. However, many lawsuits that have been filed in recent years indicate that interns are often taken advantage of. This is because many internships are unpaid when they actually should be paid.
The Department of Labor has very specific guidelines when it comes to determining whether a specific internship program requires that interns must be paid.
In order for an internship to be unpaid, it must meet all of the following criteria:
- The internship experience must be similar to training that would be provided in an educational setting.
- The internship program is designed to benefit interns.
- The intern is closely supervised by staff, and the intern does not displace a paid employee.
- The employer does not receive immediate benefits from having an intern; on the contrary, the employer might be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily expecting for the internship to turn into a job at the end of the internship.
- Both the employer and the intern understand that the intern will not be paid.
When all of the criteria are not met, the intern is likely an employee under law and should be paid as per federal and state wage laws. In a recent case that was filed in New York, a paid intern with a college football coaching staff has sued the college for violating his rights to minimum wage and overtime.
His lawsuit claims that interns with the team put in about 90 hours a week and are paid a flat monthly rate. He says that, some weeks, his pay rate averaged out to only $2.60 per hour. The interns apparently put up with these conditions because they hope to be rewarded with a full-time coaching position.
Because these interns were paid, even so minimally, it may be likely that they will be viewed as employees under the law. The future of that wage dispute case remains to be seen, but as Texas residents begin internships this summer they should remember that they may have certain employment rights and legal recourse may be available if their rights are violated.
Source: Chron.com, "The changing way of internships," Kevin Troutman, May 31, 2013