Businesses in New York that hire interns usually have to pay those interns for their work, but there are some circumstances under which interns do not have to be paid. Under labor laws, there are six conditions that must be met in order for an intern to be an unpaid worker.
A primary difference between a paid and unpaid internship is that in an unpaid internship, the experience must be for the benefit of the intern. The employer cannot benefit immediately from the work of the intern, and in fact, it must be understood that the internship could at times delay or disrupt the operations of the business. The internship must be similar to a training experience that would be given in an educational environment, and the intern must work under the supervision of existing employees. An unpaid intern cannot be hired to replace any existing employees.
Additionally, an unpaid intern cannot be hired with the promise of a paid position at the end of the internship. Finally, if an intern is to be unpaid, both the intern and employer must have an understanding that they are entering into an unpaid internship situation.
In addition to interns, businesses can hire student-learners. A business must register with the U.S. Department of Labor in order to hire student-learners, who are students at least 16 years old who work part time while attending an accredited school or college. Employers are allowed to pay student-learners only 75 percent of the minimum wage.
Wage and hour laws protect workers but can sometimes cause unfair lawsuits to be filed against employers. Business owners could benefit from having legal representation and counseling to ensure that they understand wage and hour laws prior to hiring and during the operation of business.