For more information please call  800.727.2766


Interns Are Not Employees Under the NLRA

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that unpaid interns are not employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and concerted action on their behalf is not protected.
The decision arises out of Amnesty International’s use of unpaid interns. The nonprofit organization hired approximately 15 unpaid interns each school semester. In February 2018, the interns sent around a petition to employees seeking support for the interns to be paid for their volunteer work. Most employees signed the petition. Concurrently, the organization’s board considered initiating a paid internship program for three interns. Employees were made aware of the new intern program and the unpaid interns sent the petition the next day. The executive director separately met with both groups to discuss the new plan. While the employees were upset at the reduced number of interns in the new program, the Executive Director was dismayed that the employees signed the petition without discussing their concerns with her first. She conveyed that the employees’ petition felt adversarial.
The NLRB dismissed the employees’ complaints that Amnesty International had engaged in unfair labor practices, finding that the unpaid interns were not employees because they did not “receive or anticipate any economic compensation” from the organization. Because they were not employees, advocating on their behalf could not be considered for the “mutual aid or protection” of their rights, a protected practice under Section 7 of the NLRA. Moreover, the Executive Director's statements were not found to be coercion. Given the timing of the petition and how the employees responded to her announcement, her opinion about how to handle concerns in the future were more like suggestions than commands according to the NLRB. They were not found to have risen to the required level of anger, threatened reprisal, or accusations of employee of disloyalty that would violate the NLRA. Thus, Amnesty International was not found to be in violation of Section 7 of the NLRA.