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Even though you are an intern, should you be compensated?

An intern, according to the dictionary, is a trainee -- typically a student or new college graduate -- who works for a company without pay to gain employment experience. It is difficult to get a good job in Texas or elsewhere without a padded resume. An internship can beef up your resume, making you stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, depending on the duties assigned to you as an intern, you may end up working for free when you really should be compensated for your time.

While there is a line between intern and employee, there is also a gray area which allows some employers to take advantage of the situation. Employers do have the right to hire interns. They also have the right to not pay them, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. They can only get away without offering monetary compensation, though, if the internship primarily benefits the intern. How can you tell if you or the employer are the primary beneficiary of your internship?

Take the primary beneficiary test

The problem with identifying who the primary beneficiary of an intern-employer relationship is that it is subjective. The intern may have one point of view, while the employer has another. The primary beneficiary test exists to make it easier to determine if an intern is actually an employee who deserves compensation or a trainee gaining experience. The PBT looks at seven different points when determining the beneficiary; those points are:

  • The intern knows that a job is not guaranteed at the end of the internship
  • The intern is aware that the position does not come with pay
  • The intern is to receive training comparable to that he or she would receive at school
  • The internship offers educational credit
  • The placement works with the intern's academic schedule
  • The arrangement is temporary
  • The intern's duties do not serve to replace a paid employee

If, after taking the PBT, it is determined that the internship benefits the employer more than the intern, by law the employer will have to offer the intern at least minimum wage for his or her time.

Experience, not free labor

If you signed on for an internship but believe you are being taken advantage of, you do not have to sit back and take it. You signed on for experience, not to offer free labor. The law allows you to seek compensation for your losses. With the right assistance, it is possible to determine if you should be compensated for your time.

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