Legalfilter! My work was taken advantage of - I interned/trained for a small business but wasn't paid for any time. I asked for things to be made right, but was told to shove it. Do I go to court?
Lots of details make this a complicated mess. Check it out:
- Work is very slow here in Oregon, so I chose to take on an unpaid internship for experience and the good resume marks
- At the time I was a student, but left school during my internship
- Receiving credit for my time never worked out, as I found the internship outside of school and my school had a dismal internship program
- Thus, I worked for a few months without any formal agreement for credit or formal agreement as a trainee
As the weeks passed, it became clear that my time was depended upon, and I was more-or-less an employee at this business. I was one of several interns, none paid, all doing work identical to what the paid employees did. Only a few people were paid at the business, and it seems "intern" labor drove the bulk of daily operations.
I asked for pay repeatedly, only to be told maybe "later in the year." Finally, paid work came my way - a few shifts were worked, and suddenly I was removed from the work schedule. I was told my work ethic wasn't satisfactory, and that I wouldn't be getting paid shifts unless I could do more. This, after working 4-5 months for free...
From what I understand, these are the six federal criteria (taken from here
) for unpaid work:
- The training given in the internship must be similar to what would be given in an educational setting, or vocational school
- The training should be for the benefit of the trainee
- The trainee's work not replace workers who are regularly paid
- The employer receives no immediate advantage from the trainees' activities, and the employer's operations may actually be impeded on occasion
- At the end of the training, the trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job
- Both the trainee and the employer understand that the trainee is not entitled to wages during the training period.
The work was not a learning experience. I did a lot for this business, easily as much as a paid employee (I have gathered witness statements). Given that I can't be considered a trainee or intern, I believe I am entitled wages.
It boils down to this: while it seems the regulations are on my side, I don't know if I have a leg to stand on in court. Without a formal agreement to do work, I wasn't an "intern" or an employee, just someone helping off the street - hoping to get my foot in the door. I volunteered, but it was a two-way street, they asked for my time and depended on me to show up. Is this a labor abuse and can I win back what is owed? Or have I wasted my time, and given someone a nice chunk of free work?
Go mefi! And thanks!