The Supreme Court has held that the term "suffer or permit to work" cannot be interpreted to include those whose work is for their own benefit and done under the aid or instruction of another. This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria. The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) broadly defines the term “employ” which includes “to suffer or permit to work.” An organization’s interns may need to be paid for their time under the FLSA’s definition.
The points outlined here can assist employers in determining whether or not an unpaid intern should be classified as a paid, non-exempt employee.
George Emerling, Vice President, The Emerling Agency
Lisa Carpenter, Director of Human Resources at Olean Wholesale Grocery Coop
Kevin Casey, Chief Operating Officer at Mead Square Pharmacy