I read Ross Perlin's recent editorial in The New York Times, "Unpaid Interns, Complicit Colleges," with great interest and not a small bit of dismay. As an employment lawyer who has represented employees for 25 years, I wasn't surprised to see that so many for-profit employers are still getting it wrong. The sad truth is that most unpaid internships at for-profit companies are probably illegal.
What did surprise me was Perlin's observation that so many colleges and universities are willing to look the other way at this practice. Yes, internships can be a great opportunity. But in this economy I think it's downright un-American that some unpaid internships are being used to exploit our young people and rob paid employees of their jobs. Fortunately, it's also illegal. The Department of Labor has made it clear that this sort of exploitation won't be tolerated.
It looks like some career office or guidance counselors might not tell you what an unpaid internship is and is not supposed to be. Students may assume that the career office wouldn't list an unpaid internship opportunity if it didn't comply with the law, but that's not a safe assumption.
Because so many students will be starting their internships in the next few weeks, I wanted to tell you about some top signs that your unpaid internship might be exploiting you:
Read the rest on AOL Jobs . . .
Thanks again to Gina Misiroglu of Red Room for putting me in touch with the AOL people!
Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.