Volunteer/Internship/Trainee Protocol

New York University (“NYU” or the “University”) values the contributions of volunteers, unpaid interns, and trainees to the NYU community.  It also recognizes that such volunteers and interns benefit on a personal and professional level from their service to the University.    


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a “volunteer” is one who performs services: (1) for civic, charitable or humanitarian reasons; (2) a “personal purpose or pleasure”; or (3) to gain employment contacts or a practical work experience.  A volunteer performs services without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation and without any coercion or pressure from the employer.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an “intern” or “trainee” is one who: (1) performs services primarily for his or her own benefit; (2) does not displace a regular employee; (3) produces little or nothing of value for the employer; (4) understands that he or she is not entitled to a wage for the period of training; and (5) is not entitled to a position when the training ends.

The Volunteer/Intern/Trainee Relationship

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a volunteer relationship exists when all of the following six factors are met:

  1. The training/internship is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational institution;
  2. The training or internship experience is for the benefit of the trainee/intern/volunteer;
  3. The trainee/intern/volunteer does not displace regular employees, but works under their close supervision;
  4. The employer that provides the training/internship/volunteer experience derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainee/intern/volunteer, and on occasion, the employer’s operations may be impeded;
  5. The trainee/intern/volunteer is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period/internship/ volunteer period; and
  6. The employer and the trainee/intern/volunteer understand that the trainee/intern/volunteer is not entitled to wages for the period spent in training/interning/volunteering.

If none of these factors are met, then the volunteer is actually an “employee” and must be hired as such if the School, Department or Unit desires to have the individual perform services.


A.        Program Coordinator

At least one person in each School, Department, or Unit should be designated the Volunteer/Internship/Trainee Coordinator to: (1) evaluate whether that there is a true volunteer relationship and not an employment relationship; (2) ensure that all proper agreements for the volunteer/internship/trainee experience have been executed; (3) arrange the proper training and ensure the dissemination of NYU policies; (4) authorize appropriate NYU identification cards; (5) monitor the program; and (6) provide assistance to the School, Department, or Unit hosting the volunteer/intern/trainee.

B.        Program Marketing

The Coordinator should advertise the program within the Coordinator’s School, Department, or Unit and ensure that the availability of the program is widely communicated to ensure compliance with the program.  Specific internship opportunities may be posted on the Wasserman Center for Career Development website.

C.        Approval to Place Volunteer/Intern/Trainee

Anyone seeking to place a volunteer/intern/trainee must submit a formal request for approval to the Coordinator in their School, Unit or Department at least two (2) months prior to: (1) engaging a volunteer/intern/trainee for service; or (2) partnering with an organization or entity to accept volunteer placements or establish internships or trainee programs.  School, Departments, and Units are prohibited from entering into any agreements with other organizations or entities on behalf of NYU without going through this process and submitting any agreements to the Office of Legal Counsel for review.   The placement requests, which should be made in writing, must contain the following information:

  1. Name of volunteer/intern/trainee;
  2. Age if minor under the age of 18;
  3. Description of services to be performed;
  4. Description of purpose of hosting the volunteer/internship/trainee;
  5. Where the services are to be performed and period of service;
  6. The personal, educational, or professional benefits expected to be derived by volunteer/intern/trainee;
  7. The objective criteria used to select volunteer/intern/trainee to the perform  services described;
  8. Whether the service is paid by stipend or honorarium, or unpaid;
  9. Whether educational credit will be awarded and if so, will the credit be awarded by NYU or another educational institution;
  10. How the volunteer/intern/trainee was recruited, or if the volunteer was placed at NYU by an outside organization, provide the name, address, and telephone number of the contact person at the organization; and
  11. A copy of the Agreement proposed by the outside organization to host the volunteer/intern/trainee.

The Coordinator will evaluate the request to determine whether the placement is within the legal definition of a volunteer/intern/trainee and in accordance with this process.  The Coordinator may consult with the Office of Talent, Learning and Organizational Development and the Office of Legal Counsel, Notification of approval or denial will be made in writing. If the placement is approved, it will be conditioned upon completion and/or review of the necessary agreements prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel and the creation and implementation of a safety plan, if necessary, by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety Services or other relevant Unit (i.e., Public Safety, etc.)

D.        Placement of Family Members

A volunteer/intern/trainee cannot be placed in the same department as a member of the volunteer/intern/trainee’s immediate family or of the same household without approval from the Senior Director of Talent, Learning and Organizational Development.

Furthermore, a volunteer/intern/trainee cannot be supervised by an immediate family member or by someone of the same household, nor can such a member make decisons about placement or the terms and conditions of the placement.

E.        Agreements/Waivers/Confidentiality

If the volunteer/intern/trainee placement is approved, the matter should be referred to the NYU Office of Legal Counsel to draft any appropriate agreements with the volunteer/intern/trainee or affiliation agreements with the organization or institution that seeks to place volunteers/interns/trainees at NYU.  The proper parental consent and/or waiver forms will also be prepared if the volunteer is a minor under the age of eighteen (18).   In some instances, the Office of Legal Counsel may be able to provide templates for the Coordinator to use on an ongoing basis for certain types of placements. The NYU Office of Legal Counsel will be also be responsible for seeking approval from the NYU      

Insurance Department for the placement of the volunteers/interns/trainees.

Confidentiality clauses are inserted in the Agreements between the volunteer/intern/trainee and the University.  However, the volunteer/intern/trainee may have to execute additional confidentiality forms concerning access to patient information, research data, or other highly confidential information.  Such forms will be prepared by the NYU Office of Legal Counsel.

F.         Safety Evaluations

Any volunteer/intern/trainee placement that requires services to be performed in a lab, health care facility, or any other setting where the volunteer may be exposed to hazardous materials, machinery, or health-related situations must be evaluated and approved by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (or related office) prior to the commencement of volunteer/intern/trainee services.  In such cases safety training must be completed prior to the initiation of any activities with potential for hazardous materials exposure.  Any plan or guidelines developed by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety  (or related office) must be implemented and followed or the volunteer/intern/trainee situation must terminate.  Contact EHS (ehs@nyu.edu) for further details.

G.        Training

The Coordinator will be responsible for ensuring the completion of any training the volunteer/intern/trainee may need to carry out his or her volunteer service or to successfully complete an internship or trainee program.  Furthermore, the Coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that the volunteer/intern/trainee is made aware of the Office of Compliance website to familiarize him or herself with important NYU policies, such as the anti-harassment policy, no smoking policy, and substance abuse policy.

All volunteers/interns/trainees that will have access to non-directory student information must complete the NYU’s online training on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) prior to commencement of service.  All volunteers/interns/trainees that will have access to patient or other health care information must be educated on the Health Insurance Portability Insurance and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and execute a HIPAA acknowledgment form.  Please refer to: http://www.nyu.edu/its/policies/pdfs/HIPAA6.SecAware&Train.v8.041505Rev.pdf

H.        University Identification

All volunteers/interns/trainees shall be issued “Volunteer” designations if they are volunteers; “Program Affiliation-Other” if they are an intern or trainee, or “High School Student” if they are a high school intern or volunteer for their NYU identification cards.  They are not to be designated “part-time employees”, “researchers” or any other designations that are conferred upon to NYU employees.

I.          Quality Control/Risk Management

To maintain the quality of the School, Department, or Unit’s volunteer/intern/trainee program, the Coordinator will be responsible for gathering and maintaining information on volunteer/intern/trainee placement and periodically verify the accuracy and quality of the placement. The Coordinator will also be responsible for ensuring that the process is followed.  Failure to carry out these responsibilities could have serious legal consequences and undermine the attainment of the University’s objectives as outline above.

To further assess the quality of the process, the Coordinator will actively seek and record feedback on the program, including client satisfaction.

To ensure protocol compliance, the Office of Compliance will be responsible for periodically reviewing compliance with this protocol and investigating policy violations.

J.          Assistance

NYU’s Office of Talent, Learning and Organizational Development will be available to assist the Coordinator and provide advice and guidance as necessary on managing the process.

  1. Dates of official enactment and amendments: Not Available
  2. History: N/A
  3. Cross References: N/A