As an intern in California, it is important to understand your rights and the rules that govern whether or not compensation is required. A recent study has found that nearly half of all internships in California are unpaid. This is legal as long as the employer follows very specific rules and requirements.
Interns must be paid unless the internship satisfies the federal Department of Labor’s (DOL) six-factor test, which has been adopted in California. The six factors are:
- The internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages or the time spent in the internship.
Factors 3 and 4 mean that if the intern is going beyond job shadowing and is taking on work that would otherwise be handled by paid employees, the intern should be paid.
If a company fails to pay an intern when the law requires it, the company can later be required to pay back wages equal to no less than minimum wage, overtime, potential penalties and more.
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