SCHNEIDER & RUBIN is the first law firm exclusively for unlawfully unpaid interns.
Advocating for interns’ rights is our top priority.
We are a team of lawyers who are passionate about ending the social injustice that is often prevalent in unpaid internships at for-profit businesses. Our goal is to empower all unpaid interns by educating and advocating for those who have been illegally unpaid. This exploitation will only stop when interns take a stand against it.
Wage Laws Apply to Interns
The U.S. Department of Labor has made clear that, “internships in the for-profit private sector will most often be viewed as employment,” and those interns will need to be paid, unless an internship program meets a strict 6-point test. Illegally unpaid interns may be entitled to back-wages and “double damages,” which can be substantial.
The Legal Standard for Unpaid Internships
Just because you agreed to an unpaid internship does not mean that you’ve lost your right to wages for work you performed as an intern.
Under the U.S. Department of Labor’s six-factor test, an intern must be paid unless:
1. The internship . . . is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern doesn’t displace regular employees, but works under close supervision;
4. The employer . . . derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; . . .
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; AND
6. The intern understand[s] that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship,
According to the U.S. Department of Labor all six criteria must be met to qualify as a legally unpaid internship. Many states have labor laws governing unpaid internships that are even more strict.
Common indicators of illegally unpaid internships
Some red flags that often indicate an illegally unpaid internship include:
Employers that seek out unpaid interns that already have the skills and experience needed to do the work employers want done;
Employers that expect or require interns to do unsupervised work, whether in the office or virtually;
Employers that have interns do work that employers don’t have time to do, don’t want to do, or don’t know how to do. This includes work that is menial (such as getting coffee or cleaning), administrative (such as filing and answering phones), or skilled (such as writing, designing, or handling social media).
An internship experience that revolves around an intern working and providing value to an employer, and not founded on the active training, education, and overall development of the intern, will often require that the intern be paid at least minimum wage.
Statute of Limitations
There are statutes of limitations that apply to federal and state wage claims, so it is important to take action before your claim expires. Under federal law, if an employer is determined to have willfully violated the law, a claim for wages must be filed within 3 years. However if the employer is not found to have willfully violated the law, a claim for unpaid wages must be filed within 2 years.
State laws vary as to the applicable statute of limitations. New York law allows for 6 years and New Jersey law allows for 2 years.
As Featured In…
“Great internships still exist — paid positions transparently advertised and filled, stepping stones to full-time jobs, opportunities genuinely focused on education and training. But the rash of illegal, exploitative situations has destroyed any notion that internships are inherently ‘win-win.’ The well-intentioned, structured, paid training experience of yesteryear is increasingly giving way to an unpaid labor racket that harms all of us.”Ross Perlin
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