Are Unpaid Internships Legal?

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office desk by Flickr user Sean MacEntee, licensed by Creative Commons

                       Looks about right

Internships offer college students and recent graduates a valuable way to gain experience in their fields of study. Regardless of how educational internships may be, they can be incredibly frustrating if they require the students to work for free.

Interns, especially in this economy, have become increasingly aware of the injustice of working for free, and many question the legalities of their unpaid internships. If you are an unpaid intern, you can determine whether or not your unpaid internship is legal by asking yourself one question: “are you adding to the company’s bottom line?” Even if you were happy with your internship and feel that you have gained skills in the field, if the company made money off the work you did and they did not financially reimburse you for your work, the internship was not legal and the company—knowingly or not—broke the law.

The good news is that you have a course of action. If your internship ended years ago, you can still sue the employer for wages owed. In certain states, including New York, you can sue an employer up to six years later. And it doesn’t matter whether you interned at a massive for-profit corporation or a small non-profit organization. If the business made money off of the work you completed as an intern and failed to pay you, you may have the right to sue.

If you’re interested in pursuing a lawsuit for unpaid internships, contact White, Ricotta & Marks, P.C., for a free consultation.