Unpaid internship crackdown?

An intern who permanently performs tasks of regular employees should be paid for the work, according to the Regional Labour Court in Bochum (Arbeitsgericht Bochum – docket number: 2 Ca 1482/13).  The case has caused quite a stir in the German press.

A large German supermarket chain took on a young woman as an intern on no pay for a continued period of more than 8 months. The internship was extended several times and the intern hoped to get an offer for an apprenticeship training position after the internship had ended.  During her internship, she performed the same work as other employees in the supermarket (cashier, stocking shelves, etc.). According to the Regional Labour Court in Bochum, the intern agreement was non-compliant with fundamental principles of German law as the sole purpose of an internship is to get a taste of various tasks but not to perform the same work as other employees on an on-going basis.  Due to the fact that the intern was able to provide a detailed time sheet with her hours worked (in total 1,728 hours), she was awarded EUR 17,281.50 (EUR 10 per hours plus interest).

Employers should beware when using internships as a replacement for standard employment relationships.  If the intern performs the same work as other employees without pay, there is a high risk that the intern will be entitled to claim remuneration with retroactive effect.  However, the intern has the burden of proof for the hours worked.