Internships have often been a part of a young professionalâ€™s career development. In fact, I first got experience in California politics by volunteering for a local member of the Assembly. My internship led to a full-time job at the Capitol, and I look back fondly on my volunteer time.
These days, plaintiffâ€™s attorneys and Labor Commissioners are focusing on improprieties surrounding unpaid internships.
Federal labor law is clear: employers that use unpaid interns must not receive an â€œimmediate advantageâ€ from the internâ€™s efforts. Put another way, unpaid interns are supposed to receive all of the benefits of the internship relationship, not the employer. This all stems from a basic tenant of employment law: a person providing services to an employer should receive at least minimum wage.
In order to comply with Federal labor laws, businesses that use unpaid interns need to ensure that the interns are the ones benefitting from the bargain. This means that they are provided meaningful educational experiences and are not merely accomplishing menial tasks.
With plaintiffâ€™s employment lawyers looking for new lawsuits to file, and Labor Commissioners wielding ever-more power, a business that misuses unpaid interns can quickly find itself in trouble with the law.
To avoid these problems, prudence says that interns should be paid at least minimum wage.
What about an employer that wants to provide meaningful training to young people, but not have to pay minimum wage? In this case, an employer needs to carefully plan its unpaid intern program to ensure that it complies with labor laws â€” and thus avoid liability down the road.
Contact my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss your unpaid intern program. As an employment defense lawyer, I can help you avoid liability in this difficult area of the law.