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Internships Can Be Rewarding and Compensated

The number of interns that have flooded New York for years and years, were a boon to numerous individuals and employers.

Internships provided terrific avenues for individuals to explore a new field, and make valuable connections. Sometimes the experience gained from an internship was so rich, that it did not matter that the internship was unpaid. Employers had valuable opportunities to provide mentorship, develop a pool of promising candidates from which to recruit from in the future, without having to pay salaries.

As the writer Elizabeth Wurtzel famously said, “There is nothing more expensive than free.” In February 2012, two Fair Labor Standards Act collective actions were filed by former unpaid interns for the Hearst Corporation and Fox Searchlight Pictures. These interns claimed that they should have been paid for work performed for about 20 magazines and for work done towards the production of the 2010 film “Black Swan.” It’s anticipated that more cases will be filed, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the New York Labor Law.

Do all interns have to be compensated? If the employer is receiving benefits from the internship, then most likely, the intern should receive compensation. If the internship is part of a larger educational program, it’s possible that the organization is exempt from compensating intern. New York is, is an “intern-friendly” state. The New York State Department of Labor has set forth criteria so employers may evaluate whether an intern must be paid. Of course, it’s also crucial for employers to stay on top of court cases that decide when and if interns should be paid.

It’s advisable for employers to consult with an employment lawyers to ensure that all appropriate labor laws are being complied with, as to the interns. That means having a good time-keeping system, keeping pay-roll records, keeping solid personnel files (so there’s no doubt as to whether the internship benefits the employer or is part of a larger educational program), and having interns sign paperwork that they understand the nature and requirements of the internship. Mindfulness about what the law requires can go a long way.

Interns- if you’re not sure whether you should be paid or not, seek a legal consultation with an experienced employment lawyer. The employer that you’re doing an internship need not know about your efforts to seek legal counsel. In the event it turns out that you will have to assert your right to be paid, it’s best that you create a record of all the hours worked, and the work performed. Your attorney can best advise you on what evidence is required to assert your rights under the labor laws. Very often, employers are amenable to resolving these matters in a friendly way, and without litigation.

Enjoy your summer internships.