The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The Labor Of Unpaid Internships
Internships. Between 500,000 and 1 million people embark on a journey as unpaid interns every year. Many students have taken on internships in hopes of being offered a full-time job. Truth is, a number of internships sound great and come packaged with many learning opportunities, but what about the issue of payment? Fair compensation and internships are rarely synonymous, as a lot of interns give a lot of their time and energy with little to no compensation. This begs the question, are unpaid internships legal or are they exploitative free labor? This is a fair question and one that the Department of Labour (DOL) gives more clarification about as to which workers can really work without getting compensated and which workers qualify as employees that are entitled to benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act. To answer this question, it helps to know what the DOL deems as a legal unpaid intern.
In January 2010, the Department of Labor outlined six criteria which must be met in order for an unpaid internship to be legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL’s guidelines were put in place after the Department started to look further into unpaid internship programs in 2009. The department realized that some employers were using younger workers to work in exchange for “experience” and opting to not pay them. Furthermore, government officials in California and Oregon investigated internship programs and discovered that a multitude of them were in violation of state labor laws. To learn more about the DOL’s guidelines concerning unpaid internships and the differences between paid and unpaid internships, see the infographic below.
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Industries Still Rely On Uncompensated Labor
Between 500,000 & 1 million people go to work as unpaid interns every year.
In 1992, only 17% of graduating seniors accepted unpaid internships.
By 2008, nearly 50% of graduating college seniors accepted unpaid internships, and 38% of those were working for private, for-profit companies.
TOP 4 INDUSTRIES THAT RELY ON UNPAID INTERNS
- ONLINE MEDIA
DO UNPAID INTERNSHIPS PAY OFF?
- 91% of employers think students should have between 1 and 2 internships before graduating BUT ONLY 37% of students who complete an unpaid internship get hired to full-time positions after graduation.
- AT 35%, students who don’t work an internship at all get hired at almost exactly the same rate.
- 63% of students who work paid internships, on the other hand, get hired right out of school.
STUDENTS DON’T BENEFIT FROM UNPAID INTERNSHIPS, COMPANIES DO.
DESIGNED BY WAGEADVOCATES.COM
Working Every Day To End Wage Theft
About the Author
Tim Becker Partner at Minneapolis’ Johnson // Becker PLLC, and lead sponsor of WageAdvocates.com. He is committed to providing clients effective, aggressive legal representation, and has prosecuted numerous individual FLSA violation claims.