There is a long tradition of internships or on-the-job training in just about any business. The situation is usually win-win — young inexperienced workers gain knowledge outside the classroom in a professional setting, and the company gets cheap labor as well as a fresh infusion of ideas and optimism that can lighten the mood in the workplace.

Some internships are unpaid, and others are paid. Under the Fair Labor and Standards Act, for-profit companies generally need to pay overtime and minimum wage to employees, but there are exceptions for internships.

Determining if the internship is unpaid

The Department of Labor uses a “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether the job should be categorized as a paid employee or an unpaid intern. This test examines the following:

  • There is no implied or express promise to pay.
  • The training received on the job could also happen in a classroom.
  • The internship is part of educational training with course credit given for their work.
  • The internship is tied to an academic calendar and academic commitments.
  • The internship is limited to a specific time where the worker engages in beneficial learning.
  • The intern’s work compliments full-time employee’s work rather than replaces them.
  • The intern is not guaranteed a paid job at the end of the internship.

Not all circumstances will apply

The job need not involve all these factors to be an internship, nor is there one definitive factor. The DOL, instead, uses relevant elements from the above list to determine each dispute. Businesses or workers with questions may wish to speak with a knowledgeable business and employment law attorney with experience handling these kinds of disputes in Connecticut, Massachusetts and elsewhere.