Q. For years, we have used student interns during the summer months. Because they are interns, we do not pay for their services. Is this legal?
A. If you are a for-profit business, you are taking a huge risk by not paying these interns. Before an employer can legally refuse to pay an intern, all six of the following factors must be met:
- Is the training similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction?
- Is the training for the benefit of the trainees or students?
- Do the trainees or students work under close observation of regular employees without displacing them?
- Does the employer derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and on occasion are the employer’s operations actually impeded?
- Are the trainees or students not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period?
- Do the employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training?
Most internships in the for-profit sector will fail this test, and most workers that employers view as “interns” are, in fact, employees who must be paid for their services.