Help us end the fiscal year strong. Donate by June 30. Give Now
News In Brief

Unpaid internships: Illegal?

Daryl Paranada Apr 7, 2010

We had an interesting discussion at our morning meeting about unpaid internships. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the experience of working an unpaid internship. I was just out of college, couldn’t find a job and needed to fill my time.

Now there is word that federal and state regulators are investigating and fining employers for violating minimum wage laws. Unpaid internships are OK if they comply with six legal criteria, but some employers are taking advantage of interns by using them for free labor.

The New York Times recently ran a great piece about the issue:

Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.

The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.

To see the federal unpaid internship guidelines, click here to read the PDF document.

Have you had experience working as an unpaid intern?

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.