Unpaid internships aren't inherently wrong. But ones that require two years of experience and have a whole list of responsibilities for a for-profit firm are illegal. And that's exactly what For Exposure highlighted in this tweet:
[this job is somehow both an associate position requiring a degree and 2 years of experience, yet also an unpaid internship.] pic.twitter.com/2YLc8h634c-- For Exposure (@forexposure_txt) December 22, 2019
Let's unpack how this is illegal:
Internships can be unpaid if they meet a specific set of criteria. The courts have a seven-factor test:
- The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee--and vice versa.
- The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
- The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern's formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
- The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern's academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
- The extent to which the internship's duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
- The extent to which the intern's work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
- The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.
While this job posting from ViaBill clearly says that it is unpaid, the other criteria don't past the smell test. An "internship" that requires two years of experience immediately eliminates criteria two: similar to an educational environment.
This does not appear to be tied to any coursework and requires a bachelor's degree and prefers a JD (law degree). In other words, don't apply for this while you're still in school.
The most serious violation is point six: unpaid internships must not displace paid employees.
There is nothing in this job description that indicates it's a learning experience that could disappear without affecting the company. It states:
We are looking for someone who loves wearing many hats and taking on new and exciting challenges. You will be handling various issues in a short period and are expected to take initiative and solve these with increasing independence.
No, no, and no. This is not allowable. This is clear work with a benefit to the employer. A non-profit organization can legally do this (although I don't advise it), but a for-profit company cannot.
This is such an egregious example of a job that must, legally, be paid; I strongly felt that this posting was an error. I gave ViaBill every opportunity to respond to me. I sent an email on Sunday. I spoke with a customer service representative on Monday (the only person I could reach) who escalated to his manager. This manager said she would escalate it as well, and someone would get back to me.
No one got back to me.
I don't expect that a customer service manager would know the answer to what happened. Still, I would hope that if the company cares, they would escalate it appropriately or provide accessible contact information on their website.
They do have the same job posted on their website as a part-time position with no indication of an internship. Perhaps that is the correct one. If they respond, I'll update.
Regardless of whether the job posting highlighted by For Exposure was an error that they quickly corrected or not, it is another example of why you don't let just anyone post job descriptions. You need someone who understands employment law, or you end up with embarrassing and illegal job postings.
If you see an illegal job posting, please remember to follow these steps:
- See it
- Screenshot it
- Send it, with the link to firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm always happy to follow up.
UPDATE: ViaBill tweeted their response to me on 26 December. They say it was a clerical error, as I suspected.