In-house Ethics: AIGA Philadelphia offers a responsible framework for internships

AIGA Philadelphia is making a concerted effort to support the ethical treatment of professional designers and students in the workplace. In an effort to achieve equitable practices, we are ceasing to post unpaid internships to our job site and urging our members to pledge compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. Within these standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor, students who accept an internship at a private sector business must receive a fair wage that meets the states’ minimum requirements.

For a position to be legally unpaid, the U.S. Department of Labor states that a for profit or private sector business must meet ALL of the following qualifications:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

In an effort to uphold the value of design, support better business practices and encourage meaningful experiences for interns, AIGA Philadelphia is challenging all private sector businesses to make a pledge to honor the law and fairly compensate the design students they may employ in the future. If you wish to publicly support this cause and agree to pledge this important promise to your future employees, visit the AIGA Philadelphia pledge site which states:

“The People, Companies and Organizations below, have agreed to offer no less than the minimum state wages to all their employees and to abide by the laws set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor. They fully support AIGA Philadelphia on these efforts and agree to state that their internship positions meet these requirements in any job description.”

We thank you for your support on this issue and for supporting AIGA Philadelphia.


The AIGA Philadelphia Executive Board

2 thoughts on “In-house Ethics: AIGA Philadelphia offers a responsible framework for internships

  1. Carolyn Crowley

    As someone who did several unpaid internships as an undergraduate and started internship programs at several different employers along my career, I think this is a great thing to implement. I work for nonprofits so we have never been able to pay our interns. But we do require them to be doing the work for credit or to sign a document stating what the above article outlines so they are getting the most out of their experience and are treated with respect. One thing AIGA needs to add–time limit. We limit the internships to 3 months maximum as well.

    Students and interns are a valuable resource in our community–lets keep them that way.

  2. Cheryl

    I think Carolyn was exactly right. Students and interns are a very valuable resource.

    What better way to pass on the importance of business ethics to new designers than to respect their efforts with ethical, equitable practices.

    Kudos to AIGA Philadelphia for implementing this pledge.