What’s the Intrusion Into an Intern Lawsuit?
An unpaid intern is a person who obtains work as an intern under the supervision of a company but is not paid for this work during the agreed upon length of employment. Interns are valuable to any company, but in some industries, they can be necessary if a company has specific positions that need to be filled quickly. Companies who have internships will often offer workers’ compensation or benefits if the work is done to the standards of the company.
Some companies hire interns who are employed but choose to supplement their income with an unpaid internship program.
The New York Times recently published an article about how some major corporations use intern programs as a way to circumvent the law. Companies that have the position to offer overtime pay or benefits are required by law to do so, but many do not. This puts those who are employed at risk for being paid less than the minimum wage because of an illegal program.
According to the National Association of Legal Assistants, there is nothing wrong with employers using unpaid intern programs to fill out their labor force.
Because the interns are not formally employed by the company, the guidelines for their employment relationship should not change. Lawyers and paralegals must also follow the same guidelines as factory workers because they usually perform very basic duties that do not include any heavy lifting. Companies do not need to be concerned about these menial tasks, but should make sure they are following them anyway.
For example, a factory may establish a minimum wage for each employee but pay employees only a fraction of that.
They do not have to abide by this minimum wage law, but they do not have to offer their employees any extra benefits either. If an employer uses unpaid interns to do menial tasks, this breaks the law. Likewise, if they use this practice to pay employees for minimal amounts of work (which also include overtime pay), this violates the law because they are not getting paid what they are entitled to. Employers are within their rights to not use unpaid interns to perform tasks that are reserved for a full-time employee.
Another common scenario is when an employer makes an unpaid internship program accessible to students but requires all participants to also complete an academic credit card.
If an internship program is made available to a group of people, one who wishes to take this advantage of it must first complete the internship program. In this case, the company is saying that they want their participants to get academic credit, but they cannot make that happen without one completing the credit card. However, if this same student did not participate in the program at all, the employer is perfectly within their rights to not require anyone to obtain academic credit to participate.
The most beneficial learning from an intern may come during the job training process.
Most interns will be required to attend training sessions on topics that relate to the company’s industry. It is up to the intern to learn these things because this will help them understand what is expected of them once they begin working full-time. By participating in training sessions and understanding the industry itself, an intern is better prepared to deal with unexpected situations that may arise.