Minnesota Intern Law

Unpaid Internships

Many Minnesota companies utilize interns because it can be cost-effective for the employer and beneficial for student interns in gaining real-world skills.  There are legal risks, however, that companies should guard against prior to hiring interns -- especially if the internship will be unpaid. For example, companies might misclassify interns as non-employees rather than employees, and they could be exposed to claims for unpaid minimum wage and overtime pay, liquidated damages in an equal amount, and an award of attorney’s fees and costs under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Increasing media attention on unpaid internships and the rising number of class action lawsuits filed by former interns should alert companies that preventative legal advice can be extremely valuable. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor warns that there are very narrow circumstances under which private for-profit employers can utilize unpaid interns.

Governing Law

The federal wage and hour statute, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., requires that covered, non-exempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked and receive overtime pay at one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Many unpaid interns will fall under these requirements and companies should carefully consider whether they must pay interns minimum wage and overtime.  To learn more, visit our Wage and Hours Laws page.

Non-Profit and Government Agencies

The FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements generally do not apply to volunteered services to nonprofit charitable organizations or government agencies; thus, unpaid internships in these agencies are generally permissible under federal law.  To learn more, visit our Non-Profit Organizations page.

Private For-Profit Companies

Unlike non-profit and government agencies, interns in the for-profit private sector typically must be paid in accordance with the FLSA.  The U.S. Department of Labor, however, has recognized that there are some circumstances where an employer may not be required to compensate an intern because no employment relationship exists under the FLSA. To learn more, visit our For Profit Companies page.

Minnesota Intern Law Initial Legal Consultation

If your company currently works with unpaid interns or is thinking about implementing an unpaid internship program in the future, you may wish to seek legal advice regarding the legality of your program and assistance in structuring your program to minimize the risk of litigation. To learn more, Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. offers a two (2) hour initial legal consultation regarding your Minnesota intern law questions for the flat fee of $500.  To schedule your initial consultation, please read the Terms & Conditions and contact Legal Assistant Joni Spratt at 612-455-0500 or jspratt@trepanierlaw.com.

© 2013 Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A.

The Minneapolis internship and employment attorneys of Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. in Minneapolis, Minnesota represent employers regarding unpaid internship law, wage and hour law, overtime, unpaid wages, and unpaid commissions. Our Minneapolis internship and employment attorneys represent clients in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Rochester, Duluth, Albert Lea, Apple Valley, Brainerd, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Edina, Elk River, Mankato, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Moorhead, Richfield, Stillwater, Twin Cities, and other cities within the State of Minnesota (MN) (Minn.).