The Growing Culture of Unpaid Internships

Intern Nation author Ross Perlin says free labor is problematic for society.

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I don't think young people are realizing that they're part of a larger economy of work and they're potentially displacing regular workers, which can lead to animosity in the workplace … It's leading to the disappearance of the entry-level job.

What's the easiest way for an intern, parent, or college counselor to determine whether an unpaid internship is legal?

Unless it's essentially a training program, it should be paid at least minimum wage. When you boil down the six points, what it basically adds up to is, trainees don't have to be paid because they're benefiting from the training. That is their payment. But internships have largely replaced trainee-ships.

The other way you can think of it is, if you're doing real work that benefits the organization that you're working for, you should be paid.

The one caveat is with non-profit organizations, the law is more ambiguous. For that, there's not one simple answer.

agrant@usnews.com