Must California Interns Be Paid?
Labor lawyers advise whether an intern should be paid depends on the following factors:
1) The extent to which the internship provides training similar to the training typically given by an educational institute. This may be hard to meet because most educational facilities do not offer real office work. In addition, internships are usually not classroom experiences, or online education.
2) The degree to which the internship experience benefits the intern rather than the employer. If the Intern is mostly reading case files and then turning in a report for a professor this may not benefit the sponsor of the internship, but how many internships operate in this fashion?
3) Whether the intern displaces regular employees. Even if the intern does not completely displace existing employees, but shares work it does not sound like an internship the company should avoid paying wages on;
4) How closely the intern is supervised by the employees. If the intern is not supervised, it is almost an assumption they are not performing work done by the general business operation;
5) Does the company derive immediate advantages from the intern's activities? This factor would be easy to meet under most circumstances unless the intern is not performing the type of work the company usually does;
6) Is the intern eligible for a job at the conclusion of the internship? If so, the internship may be unpaid training, but what is the effect of unpaid training? Our experience is training directly for the employer is particular training and should be paid. This is also true for existing employees;
7) Is there an agreement the intern is not entitled to wages for the intern's work? We are skeptical this will have long term legal effect. Generally agreements are not valid if they violate the law. Perhaps even more important, in the case of independent contractors agreements claiming a worker is an independent contract are not binding merely because they say so. Typically labor law looks more closely on the realities of the employment relationship opposed to a characterization on paper perhaps designed to subvert the law.
Please contact us if you have questions about whether an internship should be paid. If a company uses multiple unpaid interns that may even give rise to a class action. We have seen particular abuses of unpaid internships in the medical field in the case of CNAs and medical assistants. We have also seen abuses in the legal setting in law firms and legal department. Regardless of the industry, we are eager to stop employers from gaining free labor under the guise of an internship.