Internships are a great way for students to gain valuable experience in their chosen field. However, when it comes to legal matters, there is often confusion about the distinction between interns and employees. In California, the law is clear: unpaid interns are not considered employees and therefore cannot be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Continue reading to learn more.
What Constitutes an Intern?
The criteria for determining whether or not someone is an intern or employee can vary from state to state. In California, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has established six criteria that must be met in order for a person to be classified as an intern:
- The internship must be similar to training given in a vocational school
- The internship must benefit the intern
- The employer should derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern
- The intern should not displace regular employees
- The employer should not expect any form of compensation from the intern
- Both parties should understand that there is no expectation of employment after the internship period
Criteria Set by Government for Taking Workers' Compensation for Interns
According to California labor laws, unpaid interns are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits because they are not considered employees under state law. This means that if an unpaid intern were injured while performing work-related duties, they would have no recourse through workers’ compensation insurance and would have to seek other forms of financial assistance such as disability insurance or personal injury settlements if applicable.
Risks Associated with Misclassifying Interns as Employees
Employers who misclassify interns as employees may face serious legal repercussions including fines, penalties, and even criminal charges depending on the severity of the violation(s). Additionally, employers could also be held liable for any injuries sustained by their interns if they are found guilty of misclassification due to negligence or intentional misconduct on their part. Therefore, employers must take all necessary steps to ensure that their interns meet all criteria set forth by DIR before allowing them to perform any work-related tasks on their behalf.
How Businesses Can Protect Both Themselves and Interns from Potential Legal Disputes
To protect both themselves and their interns from potential legal disputes regarding worker classification status, businesses should make sure that all interns meet all criteria set forth by DIR before allowing them to perform any work-related tasks on their behalf.
Additionally, businesses should also keep detailed records documenting each step taken during the hiring process including job descriptions, interview notes, background checks (if applicable), etc., so that they can prove compliance with labor laws if ever called into question by authorities or challenged in court by former interns seeking damages due to misclassification or other violations related to worker classification status.
Finally, businesses should also consider providing additional safety training and resources such as first aid kits/supplies and safety equipment (e.g., hard hats) appropriate for each task assigned so that they can demonstrate reasonable care was taken to protect their interns from potential harm while performing work-related duties on behalf of the business entity itself or its clients/customers/etc.
Examples Of Past Legal Cases That Highlight The Importance Of Correctly Identifying Interns
In 2016 a federal judge ruled against Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., finding them guilty of violating minimum wage laws after misclassifying two production assistants as unpaid interns instead of employees during the filming of “Black Swan” back in 2009-2010.
In another case involving unpaid internships at Hearst Corporation back in 2014, a federal judge ruled against Hearst Corporation after finding them guilty of violating minimum wage laws when they failed to pay over 500 unpaid interns working at various magazines published by Hearst Corporation between 2005-2013.
These cases highlight how important it is for employers to correctly identify their workers according to labor laws so that they can avoid costly fines and penalties associated with misclassification violations. Noncompliance could potentially put them out of business altogether if left unchecked or unresolved through litigation proceedings initiated by disgruntled former workers seeking damages due to violations related to worker classification status issues.
It is important for employers in California who wish to hire unpaid interns to understand what constitutes an intern according to labor laws so that they can avoid costly fines and penalties associated with misclassification violations. Consequences could potentially put them out of business altogether if left unchecked or unresolved through litigation proceedings initiated by disgruntled former workers seeking damages due to violations related to worker classification status issues such as those mentioned above involving Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., Hearst Corporation, etc.
Additionally, employers should also keep detailed records documenting each step taken during the hiring process including job descriptions interview notes background checks (if applicable), etc. This ensures that they can prove compliance with labor laws if called into question by authorities or challenged in court by former interns seeking damages due to misclassification of other violations related to worker classification.
For those facing a difficult workers' compensation or employment matter, contact The Law Offices of Wax & Wax.