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Your Rights. Internship Queen says: You Do Have (Some) Rights as an Intern. Paid and unpaid interns have certain rights that are protected under federal and state laws the same as full-time employees.

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Internship Queen says:

You Do Have (Some) Rights as an Intern

what are my rights

Paid and unpaid interns have certain rights that are protected under federal and state laws the same as full-time employees.

Paid interns are considered temporary employees and are protected by civil rights laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, sexual harassment laws, and anti-discrimination laws.

Interns who are not paid also have their civil rights protected by federal and state laws.

What are my rights?
fair labor standards act

People may participate in unpaid experiences if the following six criteria are met:

The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Fair Labor Standards act

“Unpaid internships really devalue our work,” says Clarke Humphrey, a Dorchester native and Northwestern student who interned at Conde Nast Traveler (which has since eliminated unpaid internships).

so what s allowed

In April 2010, the US Labor Department explained what constitutes a legal unpaid internship, based on the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Those at nonprofits and government agencies “are generally permissible.”

In addition, for-profit companies that meet the regulations set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act have yet to be disallowed.

So what’s allowed?
what do employers think

“We believe that you should pay people for the work they do, no matter what their title says,” says David Hauser, cofounder of Grasshopper, a virtual phone system provider that has always offered paid internships. “This is a call to action for other companies, who more than likely can afford to pay interns, to pay everyone who does work on their behalf.”

But Bill Minahan, CEO of aNetworks, an IT firm, says he will continue to offer an unpaid internship, confident that his firm meets the Labor Department’s guidelines and that the value for the intern is there. “If we were forced to pay the intern,” he notes, “the relationship would be different and additional expectations would have to be fulfilled.”

Nicholas Kho, founder of the Los Angeles-based dating coaching company Real Social Dynamics, uses 200 unpaid interns worldwide and says that “the benefits and perks we give interns surpass the monetary value of the work they’re doing.” Should US courts rule the practice illegal, he is blunt: “We would simply hire more interns overseas, as our interns can work remotely from anywhere.”

What do employers think?
workers compensation

Employees who are hurt on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, and so are some volunteers. But unpaid interns don’t meet either definition and, therefore, can’t collect for any injuries they incur while on an internship assignment.

Bottom Line: Generally, unpaid interns aren’t covered. It’s an open question whether paid interns are.

Workers’ compensation
unemployment compensation

Interns generally are not entitled to unemployment compensation after completing an internship.

Most state laws (including Florida’s) exempt students who work for employers as part of an educationally related work program. The school merely needs to certify that the student’s work experience is part of an experiential learning program that combines academic instruction with work experience.

Unemployment compensation
sexual harassment discrimination

The central statue that grants employees workplace protection against discrimination and harassment is the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Although the legal definition of who is an “employee” protected by the CRA is not specifically outlined in the original legislation, federal courts have consistently found that the question of whether an individual is compensated for his or her work by an employer is the first test for determining employee status.

Sexual harassment & discrimination

Because you are not covered, it’s important to define what these things are and what you should do if you encounter them.

what is sexual harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or

Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or

Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

What is sexual harassment?

Unwelcome Behavior is the critical word. Unwelcome does not mean "involuntary."

A victim may consent or agree to certain conduct and actively participate in it even though it is offensive and objectionable. Therefore, sexual conduct is unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. Whether the person in fact welcomed a request for a date, sex-oriented comment, or joke depends on all the circumstances.

what s it look like
What’s it look like?
  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
  • Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
  • Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
  • Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted pressure for dates.
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
  • Sexual comments.
  • Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
  • Sexual innuendos or stories.
  • Sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy, or looks.
  • Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person's personal sex life.
  • Touching an employee's clothing, hair, or body.
  • Giving personal gifts.
  • Hanging around a person.
  • Staring at someone.
  • Sexually suggestive signals.
  • Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.
  • Following the person
  • Telling sexual jokes or stories
discrimination in the workplace

Anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination in terms and conditions of employment against individuals in protected classes. The protected classes usually include, but are not limited to:






national origin

veteran status

uniform service-member status

sexual orientation

physical or mental disability

Discrimination in the workplace
what to do about it

If the person is a co-worker: Make it clear he or she needs to stop.

If that person doesn’t stop, talk to your site supervisor.

If the person is a supervisor: Talk to one of the internship coordinators at UNF (Professors Doggett and Horvath) and tell her what’s happening.

What to do about it
document document document

The more you document what happened, including dates, times, and name(s) of people involved, the more believable and realistic your claims of sexual harassment or discrimination. If you do not document events carefully, it will be your word against the company and you will have a hard time establishing that you have a case.

Document, document, document
preventing sexual harassment

Dress appropriately

Stay professional

Remember the bigger picture (workplaces are NOT places for romance)

Preventing sexual harassment

You have the right to accept an unpaid internship providing it meet the six criteria listed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

You have the right to learn something from each activity and task at your internship.


You have the right to ask questions about your tasks and about your workplace.

If you are not learning professional skills at your internship site, you have the right to speak up and express your concerns to your site supervisor.


You have the right to speak up if you feel as if you are taking the place of an actual employee.

If you aren’t getting the proper instruction and feel thrown into tasks with little or no supervision, you have the right to discuss this with your site supervisor or internship coordinator.


You have the right to express interest in full-time career opportunities but cannot expect or assume anything.

You have the right to ask to be reimbursed for money you’ve spent out of pocket.

You have the right to request a new internship.


If you are asked to sign any paperwork you don’t understand, you have the right to take your time, ask questions, and bring it to the internship coordinator for review.

If you ever feel uncomfortable, you have the right to ask someone to halt his/her behavior or to report the matter to superiors.

you do not have the right

To end the internship at your discretion.

To fail to show up as expected.

To fail to undertake or complete work.

You do not have the right: