With the summer shortly upon us, employers will no doubt be faced with students looking for internship opportunities. Employers need to be very careful in characterizing students as interns, and not paying them minimum wage and following California’s other numerous Labor Code provisions that protect employees.
In April 2010, the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issued an opinion letter setting for the analysis it would conduct in making a determination regarding whether an intern is properly classified. In its opinion letter, the DLSE set forth that it would examine the following factors:
- The training, even though it includes actual operation o the employer’s facilities, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students;
- The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observations;
- The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of trainees or students, and on occasion the employer’s operations may be actually impeded;
- The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
While these factors are a fairly loose test, an intern attempting to challenge the classification as an intern would probably have at least a few good facts to support their position. This is why California employers need to approach the intern classification with caution.