The Facts About Unpaid Internships

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Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers discuss unpaid internships and how workplace injuries are handled. Unpaid internships can be mutually beneficial for both the employer and the intern. The employer is able to recruit skilled and motivated workers without having to pay a them salary. The intern can gain valuable experience in their chosen field, and have the opportunity to network and make professional connections that can open doors when they are seeking full-time employment.

Even though unpaid interns do not receive a salary, they do have some of the same rights as paid employees. It is important that businesses who “employ” unpaid interns understand the laws surrounding internships, both at the state and federal level.

According to Maryland employment law, the following characteristics define an intern:

  • An individual who has been brought in on a temporary basis. The employer has made no commitment to offer a permanent position at the completion of the internship.
  • An individual who does not receive a paycheck for his or her work
  • An individual who is working in order to obtain valuable job training and experience, but it not replacing an existing employee
  • Someone who is supervised by a paid employee

Laws Against Discrimination

Unpaid interns have many of the same protections as paid employees when it comes to discrimination. For example, employers may not discriminate against an unpaid intern due to his or her race, sex, religion, or other protected classes. In addition, employers must make the appropriate accommodations for interns who are disabled, so that they can perform their work to the best of their ability.

The federal laws that protect unpaid interns are very similar to the Maryland state laws. For example, unpaid internships must meet the following criteria, according to the Department of Labor (DOL):

  • Interns should receive training similar to what they would learn in an educational setting.
  • The position is meant to benefit the intern.
  • The intern should not replace a paid employee.
  • All interns should be supervised by an employee.
  • It should be clear that the internship does not guarantee an employment position when the internship is complete.
  • The employer and the intern should be clear that the internship is unpaid.

Even though they are unpaid, interns are still entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits if they are injured on the job, or performing any work-related duty, just like paid employees.

Internship Terms and Conditions

Because unpaid internship programs are beneficial to both parties, it is likely that they will continue. However, there are strategies that businesses might consider to help them avoid legal issues.

For example, employers may want to consider compensating their interns, or setting up programs with colleges and universities where interns would receive credits for the internship.

To avoid confusion, employers should put the terms and conditions of the internship in writing and forward a copy to the intern. The letter should include the number of days and hours that the intern will be expected to work, as well as formal beginning and end dates.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Interns Who Have Been Injured at Work

If you were injured on the job while working as an unpaid intern, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will work closely with you to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the financial benefits you are entitled to receive. Employment issues can be extremely complex, and we will address all of your questions and concerns. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.