I recently graduated from college. Because I couldn't find a paid position in my field (fashion design), I took an unpaid internship. I was promised plenty of hands-on experience and opportunities, but the only things I've had my hands on are the copy machine, my employer's dogs and kids, and groceries. I am doing almost nothing related to fashion, and instead am basically serving as a gofer and household help to a couple of the designers. Is this legal?
The answer is probably not. Calling a job an "internship" doesn't relieve an employer of the obligation to pay for your time. An employer that wants to pay less than the minimum wage (or nothing at all) to an intern must meet a seven-factor test, intended to ensure that the position really is a learning experience. If a job doesn't meet this test, the person holding it is entitled to be paid.
The Department of Labor looks at the factors listed below to decide who is the primary beneficiary of the internship:
The Department of Labor weighs all of the above factors in deciding whether an unpaid internship is legal. No one factor is determinative. If the DOL decides that the employer is the primary beneficiary, the unpaid internship is illegal, and the worker is entitled to minimum wage and all of the other rights and benefits provided to employees under the law.
As you've probably noticed, your "internship" meets few of the requirements on this list. You are receiving no training, supervision, or educational benefit from your work. Not only are you doing entry-level office work, but you are also being pushed into service as a babysitter, dog walker, and delivery person for your employers. If you were attending meetings with clients, going along on shopping excursions for fabric and materials, observing the design process, learning how to fit models, and otherwise learning your trade, your employer could ask you to fetch the occasional cup of coffee or copy marketing materials without jeopardizing your internship. However, your employer is providing no learning experiences, and instead is requiring you to do work it would otherwise have to pay for. This is likely illegal.