The Intern Bill of Rights—What You Need to Know

By Ed Woodward| May 6, 2014

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The times ahead are changing. As summer internships begin, it may mark the beginning of the end of the unpaid internship. Thanks to a large number of lawsuits, students and employers alike have been forced to define what exactly an internship is for all time, who it benefits, what the expectations are, and what should and shouldn’t be offered to make the internship legal. Some say this is long overdue.

Thus, in the spirit of these changes and to get everyone on the same page (literally) InternMatch, an intern resource for employers of several Fortune 500 companies, has drafted their own Intern Bill of Rights to help “build consensus of the issue.” And it has already been signed by over a hundred companies.  Companies that you might be interning for in the near future. You can head over to their website to read the whole “bill” but to save you a little time, here are some key takeaways.

All interns should be provided an offer document, recognizing their role within a company.

Everything is in writing. An official company document that basically says, “This is what you’ll be doing for us and what is expected of you.” It also outlines in compensation if applicable. No different than an offer letter received by a full-time employee.

All interns are entitled to the same legal protections as all other workers.

Interns should not be subject to discrimination, harassment, or arbitrary dismissal. Under these circumstances, interns should have the same standing in court and the same recourse to the law as all other workers. This one is huge. It puts the intern under the exact same legal protections as a regular employee. Though the above may have always been implied, it is now official.

All interns deserve fair compensation for their work.

Interns-Bill-of-RightsUsually in the form of wages and sometimes in the form of dedicated training, the key phrase there is “compensation for their work.” If we may quote a certain chief executive, this is what change looks like – having some change in your pocket. The word intern should only be applied to opportunities that involve substantial training, mentoring, and getting to know a line of work. Though you might be able to debate what the meaning of the word “intern” is, the word intern is now defined completely. Basically, if what you’re doing is not providing training, mentoring and is not educational, then it’s not an internship, and you should understand what your rights are and report any abuse through the appropriate channels.

An internship should be to the benefit of the intern. It should be a great learning experience and a stepping stone to what lies ahead. However, as you make the most of your opportunity recognize that knowing your rights along the way is all part of the same experience. An experience that will hopefully pay off in the future, both literally and figuratively. You owe it to yourself to know your rights.

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