Employment information and tips

Student Legal Services reviews employment contracts and internship agreements, and helps students evaluate potential jobs to avoid scams.

Unpaid internships

Generally, employers must pay people that work for them. Some interns may not be considered “employees” under Federal law and therefore do not have to be paid. Certain requirements must be met for an employer to consider you an unpaid intern.

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a fact sheet to provide general information to determine whether interns and students working for “for-profit” employers are entitled to minimum wages and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In general, if the employer is the primary economic beneficiary in the relationship, it is not an internship. For example, if the intern’s job duties are the exact same as someone else in the office who is paid for the work, likely the intern should be paid as well. 

Whether an intern or student is an employee under Federal law depends on the unique circumstances of each situation. If you have questions about whether your internship should be paid or unpaid, or other employment issues, you can speak to a Student Legal Services attorney.

Federal law allows certain government agencies or non-profits, to utilize unpaid volunteers. 

For example, if you volunteer for a non-profit food bank, generally you do not need to be paid. 

Whether an individual can volunteer, unpaid for an organization and be exempt from Federal wage laws depends on the unique circumstances of each situation.  If you have questions, you can speak to a Student Legal Services attorney.

Before you can work off-campus, you must meet with an immigration coordinator in the Office of International Affairs (OIA) and OIA must authorize the off-campus employment.  Volunteering off-campus could also be considered work depending on the circumstances.  You must have OIA review every potential off-campus opportunity. If you have questions about employment and internships, or whether employment is considered on-campus or off-campus, you should first consult with OIA.  If you require legal advice, OIA will refer you to Student Legal Services.

Most legitimate internships do not require you to pay them. Schedule with Student Legal Services to review the internship opportunity before you agree to pay for the internship. 

Employment scams

Finding a job can be difficult. Student Legal Services wants to be sure your job offer is not a scam in disguise and we can review potential job and internship offers with you.


If you find the job on Handshake, Ohio State’s job resource website, it is more likely to be a legitimate offer. However, Ohio State does not endorse or recommend the employers or opportunities posted on Handshake. While Ohio State does review employers requesting to post jobs, it cannot perform an in-depth review of each posted position. You, as the job seeker, must research the job and the employer to determine if it is both a right fit and a legitimate offer.

Job placement service

If you are using a job placement service, or recruiter, get the all the details in writing. You should also have Student Legal Services review the contract before you sign. You should know all costs involved and who pays for them – you or your employer. Also, you want to know what happens if the placement service does not find you a job.

Email / Craigslist

You should be wary of job listings that come to you via email or that you find on Craigslist. Student Legal Services recommends you thoroughly research these opportunities and meet with SLS before you take the position to determine legitimacy.

Social Media

Scammers will create pages or ads on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter posting fake jobs. Scammers may also post on more reliable online job boards like Monster, Indeed, or CareerBuilder. Do your research, and meet with SLS if you want to review the potential job.

Researching the potential employer may reveal red flags indicating it is a scam. First, search for the employer on the internet. Search for the employer’s name and “scam”. If a job advertisement provides contact information, search for that address on the internet. Most employers do not use personal email addresses like Gmail and Yahoo. Is the business address in a residential neighborhood? If so, that may be a sign it is not a legitimate business.

Review the state’s Attorney General’s website, the Better Business Bureau, and other consumer protection agencies to determine if they have information posted about the employer. If there are numerous complaints about the employer, you may not want to take the job.

Also, review the job posting carefully. Are there spelling and grammatical errors? Does the post discuss the money you will potentially make more than the job itself? These are all red flags!

Most legitimate job offers do not require you to pay money for the promise of a job. You should not give a potential employer your personal information including your date of birth, social security number, address, or bank account information until you are certain the offer is legitimate.

Do not agree to deposit the employer’s money in your bank account and then to distribute those funds from your account. That is not a job, it is a scam.

  • Can I review the contract? If you are asked to sign an employment or internship contract, you should review it carefully first. Student Legal Services will review it with you. If the employer will not give you a contract to review it before you sign it, that is a red flag.
  • What is your business address? If you find a job or internship on the internet or social media, the listing may not include an address. Ask for an address and verify it is legitimate.
  • What are the specific job duties required? If the information is vague in the posting, ask for specifics. The more you know, the more difficult it is to get scammed.
  • What are the next steps? Most legitimate employers will follow a typical hiring pattern: application, interview (there may be more than one), job offer, and potentially salary negotiation. If the employer is trying to rush you through, or skip an interview, this may not be a good sign.
  • How are you conducting interviews? If possible, ask for an in-person interview. If you must do an interview online, do not conduct it via Chat. Ask to see the person, over Skype, who is interviewing you.
  • What are the educational benefits and who will supervise me? If you are applying for an unpaid internship, the employer should fulfill certain requirements including providing an educational experience and having you work under close supervision of existing staff. If you are performing the same duties as any other paid employee, generally you should be paid.