Workplace Rights

Weekly (9/5/22)

Topic of the Week  How Interns Are Protected In the Workplace

In today’s economy, internships are often a critical aspect of finding an entry-level position. More and more students are accepting internships to provide themselves with experience prior to applying for a full-time job. Almost a third of college students report working at an unpaid internship during their college years. Despite their popularity, interns face a lot of issues at their workplaces, like low or no pay, menial labor, and a lack of protections. It is important to know your rights as an intern to ensure you receive a meaningful and positive internship experience.

1. Are unpaid internships legal?

Yes, unpaid internships are legal if they primarily benefit the intern. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has a test, the “primary beneficiary test”, for determining whether an internship is legally allowed to be unpaid.


2. What employment rights do interns have?

Paid interns, or employees who are called interns, have the same employment rights as other workers, such as a right to overtime, protection from harassment, and legislatively mandated leaves. All paid and unpaid interns are likely protected from illegal discrimination based on a protected characteristic like race, religion, gender, age, and sexual orientation. However, many states don’t have many laws protecting unpaid interns from sexual harassment.


3. I am still a student, but I want to apply for a government fellowship. May I apply for a government fellowship while I am still in school?

Typically, government fellowships are geared towards people who have advanced degrees or comparable work experience. If you are a current graduate student who has an anticipated graduation date that precedes the expected start date for the fellowship, you may qualify for a government fellowship. However, you will need to confirm the specific qualifications required for any fellowship on the job listing. 

Thought of the Week

"If the intern performs work that benefits the employer and that would otherwise be performed by a regular employee, it is unlikely to be an internship. Interns are not a way to get free labor."

–Brandon Ruiz, Attorney

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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