Do Interns Have To Be Paid in California?

May 4, 2020
By Haeggquist & Eck

Many companies offer unpaid or low paid internships in exchange for experience. Oftentimes, however, companies’ internship programs violate federal and/or California labor laws because the companies fail to pay their interns at least minimum wage.

Do Interns Have To Be Paid in California?

In general, an intern should be paid at least minimum wage if he or she does not receive academic credit in exchange for his or her work and if the intern performs work for the benefit of the company’s business. An intern is not entitled to receive compensation if the internship is supervised by a college or university, or if the intern is engaged in “job shadowing” but does not actually perform much work for the company’s benefit.

What are California’s Unpaid Internship Laws?

In order for unpaid internships to be lawful in California, employers must comply with the requirements set out by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”):

  1. Internships must be part of an established course of an accredited school or vocational training program.
  2. Interns must be trained to work in a specific industry and not be trained to perform work that can only benefit one company.
  3. Interns must not displace employees or do the work a paid employee would typically perform.
  4. A school or agency must supervise internship training.
  5. Employers must ensure that interns do not receive employee benefits, insurance, or workers compensation.
  6. Employers must ensure that potential interns are aware that internships are unpaid.

What are Federal Unpaid Internship Laws?

The U.S. Department of Labor released new guidelines in 2018 to determine whether an unpaid internship is lawful:

  1. Employers must ensure interns have training that is similar to training provided in a vocational school.
  2. Employers must ensure the internship benefits the interns, not the business.
  3. Employers must ensure interns work under close observation and do not displace regular employees.
  4. Employers must ensure the business does not derive immediate advantage from intern activities, and understands business operations may actually be impeded.
  5. Employers must ensure interns know that they are not entitled to jobs at the end of their internship period.
  6. Employers must ensure there is a mutual awareness that interns are not entitled to wages during or after the internship period.

How We Can Help

It’s common for companies to violate wage and hour laws by failing to pay their interns. If you are an unpaid or low paid intern, you may be entitled to receive compensation from your employer.

For more information about your rights, please call us at (619) 342-8000 or contact us online.