According to some, unpaid internships are arrangements that are beneficial to both sides. The employer receives useful work without having to pay wages. In exchange, the intern receives valuable industry experience and skills, helpful networking contacts, and an important resume-building piece. Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor enacted rules that made it harder for employers to bring in interns or apprentices and not pay them. Now, new rules created earlier this year by the Department of Labor may have the effect of broadening the range of internships that can permissibly be unpaid. Regardless of whether you interned under the old rules or will be interning under the new ones, if you think that your employer has improperly failed to pay you for your work, you should consult an experienced New Jersey wage and hour attorney.
Previously, under rules established in 2010, the department had erected a six-part test for when an employer may pay an intern nothing. Under the old rules, an unpaid internship needed to meet all six of the factors to be legally permissible. This set of a half-dozen standards required internships to be “similar to training that would be given in an educational environment,” an experience created for the benefit of the intern, a situation in which the intern did not replace paid employees, an arrangement in which the intern was not entitled to a job at the internship’s end, and an arrangement in which both sides understood that there would be no pay.
Additionally, the old rules required that the “employer derived no immediate advantage from the intern’s activities.” This factor was, in many courts’ view, relatively restrictive and greatly narrowed the number of internships that validly qualified as being something for which the employer could pay the intern nothing.