I made some research today to find the source of the requirements of the Department of Labour for an internship to be considered as such and not a job.
It goes back to a Supreme Court case, Walling v. Portland Terminal, of 1947. The opinion was written by famous Justice Black. I’s an interesting read for those who want to see an example of quarrelling between Justice Black and Jackson, especially since they concur this time.
What’s also interesting is that the ruling actually favoured the employer by recognizing that the employees were receiving a training for their own benefit and not for that of the employer:
“Accepting the unchallenged findings here that the railroads receive no ‘immediate advantage’ from any work done by the trainees, we hold that they are not employees within the Act’s meaning.“
How many employers today receive no immediate advantage from their interns’ work? It’s worth reading the whole section. It’s very clear:
For many years the respondent railroad has given a course of practical training to prospective yard brakemen. This training is a necessary requisite to entrusting them with the important work brakemen must do. An applicant for such jobs is never accepted until he has had this preliminary training, the average length of which is seven or eight days. If accepted for the training course, an applicant is turned over to a yard crew for instruction. Under this supervision, he first learns the routine activities by observation, and is then gradually permitted to do actual work under close scrutiny. His activities do [330 U.S. 148, 150] not displace any of the regular employees, who do most of the work themselves, and must stand immediately by to supervise whatever the trainees do. The applicant’s work does not expedite the company business, but may, and sometimes does, actually impede and retard it.