Are unpaid internships legal in NY?
June 13, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Can someone tell me definitively (with citation) whether or not unpaid internships are legal in the state of New York?

I'm having trouble navigating Google on this one; the info seems so conflicting.

Does anyone know? Thank you!
posted by infinityjinx to Law & Government (9 answers total)
They are legal but they may or may not need to be used for academic credit. I have no citation but this is based on the experience of a friend who interned in Morgan Stanley's bond trading department.
posted by prunes at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2008

It seems confusing because it is confusing. My interpretation when I was trying to convince HR that we should hire unpaid interns was that we should not be getting a new benefit from their work; we should be putting into their development more resources than we got out of them.

Even though the Department of Labor was right downstairs, we were still never able to get a straight answer.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2008

Can someone tell me definitively (with citation) whether or not unpaid internships are legal in the state of New York?

Why yes, your lawyer can. Alternately, you could contact the NY State Dept. of Labor and ask them.

What you should not do, however, is rely on the advice and legal analyses of a bunch of random dudes on the internet.
posted by dersins at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

An unpaid intern is a volunteer. Volunteering is totally legal in the state of NY. IANAL and I don't live in NY, but I've been a museum staff person for almost twenty years and if unpaid internships are illegal anywhere, it's the first I've heard of it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2008

Not a citation, but XM Satellite Radio has unpaid interns behind the scenes and on-the-air in their New York based studios. I'm assuming they found a way to make it legal. Their requirement is that you had to be an enrolled student and get credit for the internship, but that may have just been company policy.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2008

I'd be interested in seeing the results you mention that might suggest they're not legal. I work in a law office in New York (read: plenty of lawyers), and we just got our '08 legal interns -- about thirty of them, all unpaid by us, although some of them might have qualified for fellowships or grants. I mention this because I imagine that if it were illegal to hire unpaid interns, we wouldn't do this each year. I myself had two unpaid internships while in law school, both here in New York (one with a Supreme Court judge who presumably knew the law on this issue), so I seriously doubt they're illegal. Unless law student interns are somehow different than other interns. Although, now that I think about it, we also periodically have high school students and other non-law students work for us for free each year.

All of that having been said, though, I don't know for a fact that unpaid internships are legal in the State of New York.
posted by lassie at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2008

Well, you could ask one of the unpaid interns at the New York AG's office.
posted by meta_eli at 2:06 PM on June 13, 2008

The Minimum Wage Act has a paragraph of exceptions about who is covered. The short answer is "it depends." If you're worried, I would ask a real lawyer.
posted by meta_eli at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2008

The interns at the NY AG's office appear to be paid: "Student Mediators are required to fulfill the hourly requirements of their schools and to perform a minimum of 13 hours per week during the school year or 15 hours during the summer. The position pays $13.85 per hour for law students and $11.05 per hour for college students."
posted by girlpublisher at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2008

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