Great Neck employment lawyers know that unpaid internships can be a great way for new workers to get their foot in the door.
It's important to note, however, that Great Neck employment litigation can result when companies aren't careful to walk the fine line between having someone learn the ropes and having someone carry all the ropes - unpaid.
This issue recently came to light when several large media companies were sued in New York City by former unpaid interns who said they were taken advantage of by their employers. Instead of being trained and gaining footing in the field, the interns said they were simply providing free labor by completing tasks that they believed had nothing to do with the industry.
So while it may be no big deal for an intern to run out and grab the morning meeting coffee every once in a while, it becomes an issue when that's all they're doing. If you're an intern and all you're doing is menial work, there's likely a problem.
In the case of this employment pay dispute, the former interns said they were responsible for making coffee, taking lunch orders, coordinating deliveries, doing secretarial work and managing expense reports. The workers have alleged that if the companies had not used them, they would have had to hire someone to complete those tasks.
In some circles, the theory is that unpaid interns should almost be an inconvenience for the employer. They are supposed to be training those interns and making sure that he or she actually gets something valuable out of the experience.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, which is spelled out by the Department of Labor, offers a six-factor checklist that lays out the criteria that for-profit companies have to follow with regard to unpaid interns.
Because interns aren't technically employees, they don't have to be paid minimum wage or overtime. However, there is a fine line between who is an intern and who is an employee. Someone can't simply agree that they'll be an intern, meaning they can't just wave their right to fair wages. There is certain criteria has to be met.
Here is what the Fair Labor Standards Act says:
1. An internship is akin to a training that would be provided in an educational environment;
2. The experience of being an intern is for the benefit of the intern;
3. An intern can't replace or displace regular employees. He or she must work under the close supervision of the staff that is already there;
4. An employer doesn't get any immediate advantage from the intern's presence, and in fact, in some cases, the operations of the employer might be impeded;
5. The employer doesn't have to offer the intern a job at the end of the internship;
6. Both parties must understand that the intern is not eligible for payment for his or her time there.
The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment law counsel in Great Neck, New York City, Long Island and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.