When Should Interns Be Paid For Their Work?

posted in: Wage and Hour Violations | 0

Internships are an essential stepping-stone for college students and recent graduates in many industries. Many superiors don’t realize that interns aren’t just students who perform unpaid work for the good of the company – and they treat them like entry-level employees – sending them on coffee runs, off to make copies, and work them after hours.

This type of treatment violates wage and hour laws because internships are supposed to be only for the intern’s benefit, not for the company’s. For this reason, large companies, including the ones below, have faced lawsuits filed by their former interns:



Sirius XM

Conde Nast


Fox Searchlight


Warner Music Group

Radio Inc.


Tech companies in Silicon Valley hire thousands of unpaid interns to do grunt work every summer. These interns should be getting paid because they are not doing work for their benefit, but work that benefits the company. This is the standard that determines whether or not an internship needs to be paid. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), internships must meet all of the following six criteria to be unpaid:


  • “The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;”
  • “The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;”
  • “The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded.”
  • “The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;”
  • “The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship;” and
  • “The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.”


Many tech startups don’t understand the legalities associated with taking on an intern, which causes them to violate the intern’s rights. “If you’re looking to reap some immediate benefits from this (a student’s labor), you don’t want an unpaid intern, you want an employee,” says Daniel Newell, Workforce and Economic Development Program Manager at San Jose State University’s (SJSU) Career Center

Interns are largely perceived as cheap or even free work. A lunch stipend and/or college credit doesn’t cut it when an intern is performing the work of paid employees.

Interns are due minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for hours worked over 8 in a day or 40 in a week. In addition to these back wages, they are due penalties. Interns can sue for work they did in an internship up to 4 years later.

If you are working or have worked as an unpaid intern, you may be eligible to obtain compensation for the hours that you worked.


Please contact Carter Law Firm using the form below.




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