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Your Rights
Intern Unemployment Eligibility

For many, an internship may be their first job and a stepping stone into their professional career. While interns gain a lot of valuable experience, often interns are barely, if at all, compensated. Many interns cannot live off of their paychecks and have to seek another job. However, finding another job is not always easy. For this reason, it is important to know if, as an intern, you are eligible for unemployment.

1. I am a paid intern. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Most likely not, but it depends. As a paid intern, you are required to report your salary in your taxes. Depending on the income threshold for unemployment benefits in your state, you may be eligible. However, some states require that those who receive unemployment benefits must be willing to work, meaning that if you are offered a full-time or part-time job, you cannot turn it down because of your internship obligations. 

If you are unsure whether you qualify for unemployment benefits, consider finding an employment attorney to learn more. Or, you can apply for unemployment benefits. If you are rejected, then you are not eligible.

2. I am an unpaid intern, am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Most likely not, but It depends. Some states allow unpaid interns to receive unemployment benefits so long as they are actively seeking employment. To learn if you qualify for unemployment benefits, contact your state’s unemployment insurance program.

3. I lost my internship due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

It depends. While you are most likely not eligible for the typical unemployment benefits (UC), you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In most states, if you lost your internship due to COVID-19, are still actively looking for a job, and have not turned down any offer of suitable employment, you are eligible. To find out if you are eligible in your state, you should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program.

4. If my employer who hired me as an intern offers me a job, and I refuse it, am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Most likely not. To be eligible for unemployment benefits you cannot turn down “suitable” job offers. The definition of “suitable” varies by state, but, in general, “suitable” means a job comparable to the one you had before. Typically, the jobs interns are offered by their employer is comparable to the work they are currently doing as an intern but entails more responsibilities and a greater pay. Thus, most jobs interns are offered from the employer who hired them as an intern is considered “suitable,” and refusing such offers may make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

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