Internship Employment Laws

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Most Common Employment Law Issues:

Who is an Intern?

An intern is a temporary employee who gains educational experience in a real-work environment. Interns may be given a nominal stipend, but unpaid internships are more common. Schools can give educational or tuition credits for internships, but educational credit is not a requirement in order for the internship to be unpaid. Individuals can complete internship positions for their own personal educational benefit.

Internships are often entry level positions and assistant positions, so interns can gain on-the-job experience in their field. That experience can assist in a later job hunt.

How is an Intern Different from an Independent Contractor?

Independent contractors are self-employed. They offer their services on a contract or freelance basis. Small business owners, sales people and brokers, consultants, and writers are professionals who often work as independent contractors.

Independent contractors pay their own taxes. They keep their own records of expenses and deductions in order to report to the IRS along with earned income. Most independent contractors pay a self-employment tax and purchase their own insurance and liability coverage policies.

If legal questions arise about whether or not a worker is considered an independent contractor, there are several factors to consider. The level of compensation, the nature of the work, the nature of the training, the level of oversight and instruction in the position, the level of skill required in the position, and the beliefs of the parties involved are all considered when determining if a job is legally considered an internship or an independent contractor position.

How is an Intern Different from an Employee?

An employee is paid a salary, offered benefits, and works with the expectation of continued employment. Employees are expected to contribute to the productivity of the employer rather than working for educational benefit. 

Which Laws Protect Interns?

The Fair Labor Standards Act contains rules for legal internships. There are six criteria an unpaid internship must meet:

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you believe you have worked as an employee or independent contractor under the guise of an unpaid internship, an employment lawyer can advise you of your options.

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Last Modified: 05-25-2016 12:15 PM PDT

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