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Illegal Internships

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - With a tight job market many students are seeking unpaid internships – but horror stories abound, and laws are often broken.

A Philadelphia area college student who responded to an ad for an unpaid marketing internship was surprised on her first day to find that the position entailed making sales calls from the bedroom of the business owner who still lived in his parents’ house. Ew.

But other than the creepy experiences, nearly all interns find themselves doing menial tasks. And while many are happy just to get a foot in the door, neither they nor the company may realize that labor laws don’t allow companies not to pay interns unless the company provides training for the benefit of the intern, and that the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainee.

In other words, laws forbid using unpaid help to do the jobs you don’t want to. Companies can pay the intern for menial tasks, or actually provide an educational benefit. And students should know their rights before they wind up with their own internship horror story.

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