Internships can be a win-win situation for business hopefuls and employers alike. Unfortunately, there are occasionally cases where unpaid interns are wrongly classified and taken advantage of by employers. If an unpaid intern is misclassified, and the intern performs the responsibilities of a paid employee, the employer could be liable for wages and overtime compensation.
A well-defined policy on employee and intern classification should be in place to avoid misunderstandings and abuse related to interns’ responsibilities. If there is no policy, or if an unpaid intern is made to work outside the established parameters, he or she should speak up or seek legal advice.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) developed a six factor test to define whether an individual classifies as an unpaid intern, or if they are an employee with protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). Many courts and appellate courts involved in lawsuits filed by interns rejected the DOL test as too restrictive. They instead developed a primary beneficiary test that uses seven factors to determine whether or not an individual qualifies as an unpaid intern or as an employee deserving of compensation for services. These cases tend to be complex, but a knowledgeable employment lawyer can help to determine if an intern is due compensation.
Internships Should Focus on Training, not Profits
There are basic criteria used by most courts when deciding if an individual should be classified as an employee or an intern. In general, for an individual to be classified as an intern, their position should focus on training and the development of industry skills rather than training or performing the specific work that a company employee is paid to do. The individual who secures an internship is being offered a learning experience and should not be expected to be a productive worker, or be required to report to the position for more than 40 hours per week.
Another key factor in analyzing the role of an intern is the length of time the internship will last. An internship should typically last for a period of one to four weeks, and should not stretch out over a period of months. The training and educational level intended for an intern should be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, anyone who stays in an internship longer than a month would then be expected to produce work for which they were trained. When this is the case, the individual should be classified as an employee and will therefore be entitled to compensation and protection under the FLSA. Moreover, if an employer profits from actions of their interns the employer may be liable for compensation and overtime pay.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C. Represent Unpaid Interns in Wage and Overtime Disputes
The South Jersey employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C. can help you get the compensation you deserve if you have been improperly classified as an unpaid intern. Contact us online or call 215-569-1999 today to schedule a free consultation with a seasoned and dedicated employment lawyer in South Jersey. Our office is conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.