Chapter 3: Major Legal Considerations Pertaining to Internships

Published: Nov 5, 2021
Contributor: David Yamada

License: CC BY NC ND 4.0 license – Allows redistribution but no additions or revisions to content. Forbids commercial use.

The burgeoning intern economy developed largely in the absence of federal guidelines or clarifying legal precedents until recently, creating significant ambiguity around interns’ rights, internship providers’ responsibilities, and institutions’ potential liabilities. During the past decade, litigation has helped clarify the relationship among students, their university or college, and their internship providers under current employment and education laws. This chapter surveys the major legal developments concerning internships, including compensation, harassment, and discrimination issues, with the core question being whether an internship is treated as an employment relationship under the law. With this briefing, relevant stakeholders can seek advice of their local counsel for further clarification about legal rights and responsibilities concerning interns as they aim to implement higher quality, accessible internship opportunities, especially for students who are interested in politics and public policy. The additional fact sheet provides general information to help determine whether interns and student workers working for “for-profit” employers are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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