The most concise and reader-friendly site I found on the issue was this Labor and Employment Law Blog which outlines the 6 criteria that an employer MUST meet in order to legally offer an unpaid internship:
- The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
- The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The actual legal documents outlining the above can be found somewhere in here, but they are definitely NOT reader-friendly :)
My employer meets requirements 5 and 6. That's 2 out of 6 that must ALL be met. So the question now is, what do I do?
Technically and legally, I could file a claim for back wages. I could inform my other fellow interns of their right to do the same, but that would just be vindictive, and I'm not that type of person... yet... let's see how I feel about that if I'm asked to sort CDs again - which is ABSOLUTELY in violation of requirements #2 and #4.
At the very least, I will use this when the time comes to leave before my designated term is up. My "employer" has a dishonorable discharge policy where if you leave before your term is up, you cannot use the time spent there on your resume, h and, if called, he will state that you were dishonorably discharged. I can certainly now bypass that argument.
Ideally, I would like to use the information to turn the internship into something that actually will benefit me, but that discussion could be very uncomfortable and will likely result in no internship.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Comment below :)