A Changing Landscape: Unpaid Internships Under the DOL's New Primary Beneficiary Test

Employment Law Commentary, Volume 30, Issue 2

February 2018

New guidelines adopted by the Department of Labor (DOL) have re-shaped the factors employers must consider when evaluating the legality of unpaid internships. Seven new criteria, originally detailed by the Second Circuit and adopted by the DOL in January 2018, emphasize that employers must structure programs to primarily benefit the intern. In order to comply with the new standards, employers may consider supplementing internship programs with additional trainings and mentorship opportunities, or by requiring that internships be completed for academic credit. This new “primary beneficiary test” also allows courts to take a more flexible approach to the employer-intern relationship, namely by looking at the totality of the circumstances and acknowledging the unique circumstances of each case.

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