School will be out soon, and for-profit businesses may be approached to give idle teens opportunities in your business/industry as unpaid interns. California law generally does not allow “volunteers” in for-profit businesses. So what can you do to without running afoul of California employment law? Before considering taking on an unpaid intern, a for-profit business must consider the following:

• Interns cannot displace regular employees.
• Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship.
• The employer and the intern(s) understand that the interns are not entitled to wages during the internship period.
• Interns must receive training from the company, even if it somewhat impedes on the work of the organization.
• Interns must get hands-on experience with equipment and processes used in the industry.
• Interns’ training must primarily benefit them, not the company.

Unless all of the criteria are met, the intern is legally an employee, who must be paid the minimum wage, earn overtime, and receive all of the other protections guaranteed by state and federal employment laws. Best practice: administer unpaid internships through a school OR plan to pay minimum wage for all hours worked. If you pay them, the tasks they perform may be as meaningful or menial as you like. If you don’t pay them, plan to spend more time training than the benefit you receive from their labor, as that is what will be scrutinized if there’s a challenge.

Questions? Call us: (805) 225-1773

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