Anyone who needs real-life exposure and an increase of marketability as a student goes for an internship. If so, then one may wonder whether any work performed will earn them some wages.
If you seek internship for nonprofit organizations or any government institutions, the chances are that you may not get paid. However, there are situations where working without pay may be illegal.
If you have been employed by a profit-making company, determining whether you are paid for your work will be based on whether your employer has met some requirements.
Where such requirements are not followed to the letter, interns can join up to have potential lawsuits as per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
When An Intern Should Be Paid
While many employers seek interns to better their career life, others use them as free labor. There have been many class-action lawsuits where interns seek damages from employers who treat them as employees, but without pay.
According to the Department of Labor (DOL), employers who have interns have to follow some requirements to ensure they are not on the legal hook for an illegal unpaid internship. The requirements include:
- Both the intern and the employer understand the internship is unpaid.
- Any work given should be similar to any training offered in an educational setting.
- The work experience should be solely to benefit the intern.
- There is no promise of employment at the end of the internship.
- The intern is to be closely monitored and should in no way displace a regular employee.
When the above is followed, no intern should expect any payment for their internship services.
However, the above was recently prevailed over by the fact that courts brought about more flexible requirements to consider:
- The extent to which both the intern and the employer embraces that the intern is not be paid at the conclusion of such internship.
- The duration of the internship and whether such provided beneficial learning for the intern.
- Whether the intern’s work complements instead of displacing paid employees duties and whether such provides learning benefits the intern.
- Whether the training given during the internship is similar to what would be given in an educational setting.
- The extent to which the intern’s academic commitments are accommodated regarding the academic calendar.
- The extent to which the intern and the employer understand there not payment for the internship.
With the above, this makes it somehow tough to bring up a claim against unpaid internships. If you think you have a case, it’s always recommended to have an employment law attorney in California to look for the best strategies to help you in any claim. Employers who hire unpaid internships are more inclined to treat them as employees and thus often battle with class-action lawsuits.
If your employer treats you as an employee but not paying you, you may have a claim. When such issues are happening to multiple employees, it becomes swift to come together and file a class-action lawsuit.
Interns Can File A Class Action Lawsuits
There have been numerous successful class-action lawsuits. If as a group of interns you have been employed by a profit-making company violating the FLA rules, you can discuss such a matter with an experienced class action lawyer. That’s when to decide whether you are qualified to file a class-action lawsuit. You can also join with former interns whose legal rights were violated.
The law stipulates how to detect an employer is taking advantage of interns through violating the California laws on internship. The internship should benefit both the intern and the employer. However, the employer should not use an intern for free labor such as to displace regular employees.
A class action lawyer can thoroughly investigate a case following the above requirements and determine whether it’s necessary to file a class action lawsuit. If so, they can make arrangements to represent you at no fee and later get their share once your class action case wins.
Such lawsuits are helpful to punish the employer and deter any illegal action they may take in the future.
Your argument may include failure to get minimum wage and any unpaid overtime, among other employee benefits, if you work in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. In some situations, your employer may also be forced to pay for missed meals and rest breaks, waiting for time penalties for failure to pay wage on time, etc. That is, you may recover damages and penalties equal to your employer’s violation of California wage and hour laws.
The bottom line is that whether an internship is paid on not paid may depend on an individual situation. That’s why it’s a dire need to have a lawyer guide you before taking any legal action, as there are situations where internships may not be paid.