Offering Unpaid Internships – Career Development
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Offering Unpaid Internships

The following is an excerpt from a February 2015 National Association of Colleges and Employers article.

Legal Issues: Internships

by George C. Hlavac, Esq., and Edward J. Easterly, Esq.
NACE Journal, February 2015

“Employers, therefore, must be mindful when classifying an intern as ‘unpaid.’ An employer must focus on the productive work performed by the intern. If the productive work outweighs the training and supervision burden imposed on the employer, an employee/employer relationship may be present, and an employer may be subject to liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Employers have also attempted to rely upon the fact that an unpaid intern receives college credit to support its position that regardless of the duties performed, the intern is technically ‘compensated.’ Recent case law, however, has essentially blown that argument out of the water. Courts have recently stated that receiving college credit in and of itself does not establish an unpaid internship and is of ‘little importance’ in determining if interns must be paid. The true test is whether the internship is structured to benefit the intern and not the employer.

As such, an employer must focus on the work performed by the intern, the training provided by the employer, and who, ultimately, receives the benefit of the internship.”


“Internships provide a benefit to both employers and the interns. Given the current legal landscape, however, employers must be mindful of how they structure such relationships. Each day more lawsuits are filed, more statutes are proposed, and new laws are implemented that impact the internship dynamic. Employers have a legal requirement to keep abreast of such changes to avoid significant liability.”

George C. Hlavac, Esquire, and Edward J. Easterly, Esquire, are attorneys in the Labor and Employment Law Department at Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A.

– See the complete article at:

More information about paying interns and related topics can be found within the University of St. Thomas Career Development Center’s Employer Resources website, Internship Planning section:


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