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Volunteers and interns

Learn about when volunteers and interns can work without pay.

Most people who work are considered employees and must be paid at minimum wage or higher for all the time that they work.  Volunteers and some interns may work without pay.

Who can be a volunteer?

Volunteers provide services to not-for-profit or charitable organizations. The Department of Labor Standards (DLS) determines who can work as an unpaid volunteer. DLS considers the following in determining whether an individual may be classified as volunteer:

  1. the nature of the entity receiving the services;
  2. the receipt by the worker of any benefits, or expectation of any benefits, from their work;
  3. whether the activity is less than a full-time occupation;
  4. whether regular employees are displaced by the "volunteer";
  5. whether the services are offered freely without pressure or coercion; and 
  6. whether the services are of the kind typically associated with volunteer work. 

If you have questions about volunteers, contact DLS.

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Who can be an unpaid intern?

Interns must be paid, but there are limited circumstances when they may be unpaid. The Department of Labor Standards (DLS) determines who can work as an unpaid intern.

Workers who are getting school or academic credit

Generally, an intern who receives school or academic credit may be an unpaid intern.

Workers who are not getting school or academic credit

If an intern is not receiving school credits, then the intern must be paid at least minimum wage, unless the intern is a “trainee” under state law. This is a narrow exemption. DLS may determine that someone is a “trainee” excluded from the minimum wage laws if the training:

  1. is similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, even though it includes actual operation of the employer’s facilities;
  2. is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. does not displace regular employees, but the intern works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. provides the employer with no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. does not entitle the intern to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
  6. is based on a mutual understanding between the employer and the intern that the trainee is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

If you have questions about unpaid interns, contact DLS. 

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