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California’s Unpaid Internship Rules and Laws

California’s Unpaid Internship Rules and Laws

Labor Laws - August 6, 2013 - 0 Comments - by

The California Way

One legal commentator recently described an unpaid internship as benefiting both the employer and intern: the employer gets free labor and the intern gets job experience.

Buzz. Sorry, that’s the wrong answer. Cue deflating music. Thank you for playing. You may claim your consolation toaster oven at the front desk.

While such a description may be reasonably accurate – the quality and quantity of job skills accumulated during an internship is highly debatable – this arrangement is patently illegal. Federal labor law clearly states that the employer is to receive no benefit from an unpaid intern’s labor and, in fact, the intern might actually be an undue burden on the employer. California labor law goes a bit further, and more accurately describes “interns” as “trainees.” This term more closely fits the intent of the unpaid internship. The intern comes in with no job skills and no job experience and leaves with both. In the New Economy, employers often expect their interns to already have both and, if they are lucky, maybe pick up a few new tricks along the way.

If you have been victimized by an unpaid or underpaid internship, remember that the clock may be ticking. Before the time expires for you to file a claim and receive fair compensation for your work, contact us to discuss your case with an experienced New York Wage and Hour Lawyer lawyer today who specializes in unpaid internship and Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits. They are is only a fee after we are successful in recovering wages for you. 

California’s enforcement process also works differently. Instead of waiting for someone to complain, which may or may not happen, most California businesses submit a written request for an internship to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The employer outlines the program, and the DLSE issues an opinion as to its legality. In addition to the six-factor Department of Labor test, an unpaid internship in California must meet five additional requirements before the DLSE green-lights the plan:

  • Any internship should be part of an educational curriculum – The internship must be a partnership between employer, school and intern. No one can just show up and start working for nothing with the faint hope of obtaining some future benefit.
  • The intern(s) should not receive employee benefits – Even in California, just like the relationship between Asok and the Pointy Haired Boss, there is a vast gulf between interns and everyone else.
  • The training received by interns should be general so as to qualify the interns for work in any similar business, rather than designed specifically for a job with the employer offering the program – This consideration probably has to do with the intern gaining overall career skills, and not just meeting the boss for lunch once a month.
  • The screening process for interns should not be the same as for regular employment, but rather must be based on criteria relevant for admission into an independent educational program – Again, California emphasizes the educational element which the federal government bureaucrats neglect.
  • Advertisements or postings for internships should clearly describe the positions as educational or training-based rather than employment – California clearly requires employers to be upfront regarding the “unpaid” thing. For some reason, there is no similar requirement in the federal standards.

They do things differently in California. In the 1960s, despite making very conservative campaign promises to “send the welfare bums back to work” and “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” Governor Ronald Reagan signed one of the nation’s first no-fault divorce laws which, at the time, was so progressive as to be seen as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Although California tries to be a bit more protective, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of interns work in menial positions with no pay and no hope of career advancement.

If you have been victimized by an unpaid or underpaid internship, remember that the clock may be ticking. Before the time expires for you to file a claim and receive fair compensation for your work, contact us to discuss your case with an experienced New York Wage and Hour Lawyer lawyer today who specializes in unpaid internship and Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits. They are is only a fee after we are successful in recovering wages for you. 

 

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