Here are the six criteria from the Department of Labor, all of which an unpaid internship must pass in order to be legal.
- 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.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
There have been many high profile lawsuits where unpaid interns have received compensation for their illegal employment. Viacom settled for $7.2 million, and NBCUniversal for $6.4 million
If you feel like any of this applies to you, then I suggest you contact your State Bar and ask for a lawyer that specializes in employment law.