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Are Unpaid Internships Legal in California?

An internship is a learning experience that will offer meaningful, and practical work in the field of study. By pursuing an internship the student can gain the opportunity of career development and exploration. After the successful completion of the internship program, many students get jobs that offer them various experiences and benefits. California is a western United States state that stretches from the Mexican border along the Pacific for nearly 900 miles and is one of the biggest cities of the United States. Many students from all over the world are interested in pursuing an internship program in California. Many students bring many doubts with them. Some of the common doubts that came to their mind are- Which companies are providing the internship program, How to get the internship program, and many more such questions. The next big question that arises in their mind is Are Unpaid Internships Legal in California? This question always struck them in the chaos whether they are eligible to work or not or they have to find paid internships in California.

It is most common for companies to look for unpaid interns to do some of the assigned tasks that need to be completed. The typical qualification of an intern is often a student who is looking for a particular program that matches the skills while still in school. Many students are not even worried about being paid because they are looking for valuable work experience that will be beneficial to them in the future. There has been a bit of confusion to get rid of unpaid internships, as many people think that free labor is unfair and unethical.

For many people pursuing an unpaid internship is not possible because they have to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. They search for paid internship programs to meet their needs. This means only wealthier students can certainly go with unpaid internships because they have enough to meet the expenses which are completely unjust for other students. Those students who are eligible to pursue the unpaid internship program can gain a valuable learning experience and can secure a better position in the future. The idea is not about the people’s opinion, it is about the government that whether they decide that unpaid internships are legal or not. The estimates say that there are as many as 1.5 to 2 million unpaid interns that are working in the United States and are often exploited by employers.

Unpaid Internships program in California

In California, all unpaid internships are legal as stated by the state and federal law of the city. To hire an unpaid intern in California, the employer needs to submit an outline of the proposed internship to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, often abbreviated as DLSE. All the employers in California must meet two sets of standards to hire an unpaid intern that is federal law and state law. To get approved by the state and federal law and according to the state law, the internship must meet the following criteria:

1. The selected intern will be prohibited from receiving any employee benefits, which include worker’s compensation insurance and insurance.

2. The internship program must take place as part of an education program that requires participation in school or something similar.

3. The student must be trained to work in a particular industry or field.

4. When the employer is finding an intern for the company, they must stay transparent about the fact that this program is going to be unpaid.

And the most important aspect of the position is that the internship program will benefit the intern and not the employer.

Federal Law on Unpaid Internships

The Department of Labor provides a brief outline of the federal laws that determine whether an unpaid internship is legal or not. The rules form a seven-part primary beneficiary test that will help the employers and interns to remain compliant with all the labor laws. If an employer is a part of the primary beneficiary, then the selected intern is considered as an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and entitled to minimum wages. According to the federal internship laws, an employer must meet the following requirement:

1. The intern must be aware of the fact that they will not be receiving the payment for their work.

2. The selected intern will perform all the duties that are similar to the training that they would receive in an educational organization.

3. The internship program is associated with the intern’s degree or schooling through the integrated coursework.

4. The work that is performed by the intern must not interfere with any other academic commitments or the academic calendar.

5. The internship will only last while it is beneficial to the hired intern in their education.

6. The intern will not displace any other employees, and the work they will perform will provide significant educational benefits.

7. There is no need that the intern has to be hired at the end of the internship program.

Are Unpaid Internships Bad?

With all the focus on the minimum wage practices over the last few years, especially in California, unpaid internships have faced scrutiny. It must be noted that unpaid internships often lead to lucrative and long careers in the person’s chosen area. The unpaid internship that operates with the state and federal guidelines can be beneficial to both the employer and the intern. However, there are many times when employers take the advantage of unpaid interns in violation of state and federal law.

While working as an intern in the companies provides various benefits to the students and employer, unpaid interns are quickly becoming the modern-day equivalent of the entry-level employees, are always taken advantage of financially. So anyone who is working as an unpaid intern and if you believe that the employer is violating federal and state law, then it is a good idea to contact an employment law attorney in Orange County as soon as possible.