Unpaid interns may not enjoy protection under anti-discrimination laws
The Tenth Circuit held that an unpaid intern did not enjoy any protection under Title VII (the nation’s leading anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation law). Congress wrote such laws to protect “employees,” and the Court reasoned an entirely unpaid intern failed to meet a threshold test for proving he or she is an employee because such an intern receives no “remuneration” from the putative employer.
In this case, the plaintiff held an unpaid internship at a hospital as part of her school’s requirement that she complete at least 480 hours of such an internship. She was not paid. She argued that she, nonetheless, received “remuneration” because the internship helped meet her credit requirement and also because many interns found jobs later with the same companies. The Tenth Circuit rejected the idea that either constituted “remuneration.”
Ms. Sacchi has cited no cases, nor could we find any, where only a professional certification and pathway to employment satisfied the threshold-remuneration requirement.
We also decline the invitation to conclude that all interns are protected by Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA. Aplt. Br. at 24-27. Even if a laudable goal, this is a task for Congress.
Employers are cautioned that a different law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, requires interns to be paid in many circumstances.
Source: Sacchi v. IHC Health Services, Inc., 918 F.3d 1155 (10th Cir. 2019).