United States: Ivanka Trump Intern Controversy Offers Key Reminders For Businesses

Last Updated: September 9 2016
Article by Allison Oasis Kahn

A recent blog post by one of Ivanka Trump's interns suggests the Presidential candidate's daughter uses unpaid interns to help run her website, IvankaTrump.com.

The intern offered tips on staying financially afloat while living in New York and being paid in experiences, rather than wages. Ivanka Trump tweeted the blog post and criticism ensued.  

Actual educational experiences can amount to a proper unpaid internship; but, the longstanding practice of using interns as free labor can be risky. For that reason, it is an increasingly unpopular practice. Only businesses with altruistic motives should seek out unpaid interns. That's because most courts look to who receives the primary benefit of the working relationship, the business or the intern, when determining whether an intern should be paid. If you use interns as an "extra set of hands," you may be violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal wage and hour law governing employment relationships.   

An insufficiently structured internship program creates risks to your business, including reputational damage; investigations by the Department of Labor (DOL), which implements the FLSA regulations; and private lawsuits under the FLSA, some of which may be costly collective (class) actions.  

The DOL has developed a six-factor test to analyze whether an employment relationship exists between a business and intern. Many courts find these factors too rigid and reject them, but they are helpful to illustrate the types of issues argued, and considered, by the DOL and private attorneys in internship litigation. The trend is for courts to analyze who received the primary benefit of the work, and no one factor is dispositive.

The best practices below draw on a combination of the more stringent DOL six-factor test factors, and consider internship programs that courts have found primarily benefit the interns and do not create an employer-employee relationship covered by the FLSA. When establishing and running your internship program, aim for a generous combination of the following best practices.

Best Practices for Your Internship Program

College credit. Work with schools to get interns college credit. This is listed first because it is strikingly persuasive evidence that the primary benefit of the relationship inures to the intern.  

Make the internship educational. If the intern attends school, to the extent the school has internship requirements, be sure to tailor the program to meet them. You can also do this by: obtaining course materials and syllabi from a school so you know the interns educational training needs; speaking to school instructors about student tasks to ensure the school believes the assigned tasks have educational value; check in with the school and give updates on interns' progress; provide student evaluations to the school; invite the school to visit your business to observe the students.

Take what you get. Avoid conducting interviews, which are an indicia of employment, to choose your interns. To the extent a school can send interns, without having your business interview them, this "take what you get" approach is helpful. Also, if interns can pick the hours and days they work, this also militates against a showing of employment, as most employers pick the dates and hours of work. Still, the internship should have fixed start and stop dates and not continue indefinitely. The longer the relationship lasts, the more likely it will be argued to be an employment relationship.

Hands-on training. Provide training that your interns will be able to use within your industry, not just training specific to your business. Focus on teaching and observing the interns. An employee should remain responsible for the tasks assigned to them, and should double-check their work.

Field Trips: Plan activities that offer no benefit to the business whatsoever. Take the interns on an educational field trip. Bring in a guest speaker. Think about what kind of educational activities would benefit interns in your industry. Consider the types of experiences you can offer that interns could not get in a classroom. Build on their classroom experiences.  

Don't displace any employees. Do not depend on an intern's work to run the business. Be careful not to delegate significant duties to the interns while you or other employees devote time to other matters. You do not want it to appear that the interns have displaced any paid employees.

Provide supervision and feedback. The more supervision and feedback your company provides to interns from knowledgeable and experienced employees, the better. Monitor the interns. Let them shadow your employees. Although it may seem counterintuitive, your interns should actually slow down employee work. Answer interns' questions, guide them, and give them written evaluations (ideally, daily). These evaluations need not be terribly time-consuming. You might create and use a standardized form. The students could evaluate their own work, detailing what they learned during the project. 

No post-internship employment. Be sure the interns understand they are not guaranteed jobs after the internships. Consider including this reminder in a written form for them to sign at the start of the internship. Don't make interns commit to employment should you make an offer at the end of the internship. And, don't use the internship as a trial or probationary period.  

No payment. Include in the form for the interns to sign their acknowledgment that the internship is unpaid and that they understand they are not entitled to minimum wage as non-employees. Don't offer them benefits, that only aids in an employment relationship argument. Tout the educational worthiness of the non-employment program in any marketing pieces for the program.

These are aspirational goals, a combination of which will help you structure your internship program to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome should your business be charged with failing to pay an intern minimum wage and overtime.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions