Unpaid intern treated as an employee? Know your rights.
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I’m an unpaid intern treated as an employee. What are my rights? 

I’m an unpaid intern treated as an employee. What are my rights? 

As an unpaid intern, if you perform the same tasks as a regular employee, you are entitled to receive compensation for the hours worked.

Internships should not resemble a traditional job. Notice the difference between receiving education and training through practical experience versus an employer taking advantage of you.

What limitations do employers have in these scenarios?

If hiring an intern without financial remuneration, the employer cannot:

  • Use the intern for the benefit of the company.
  • Replace an employee with said intern.
  • Force them to show up during class hours without adjusting to their academic schedule.
  •  Guarantee a job offer at the end of the internship.

You must ensure that your work is focused on industry-related experiences and not on tasks like filing papers. An employer violates the law by assigning you jobs that are unrelated to your chosen education program.

The internship should only favor the intern and not the company – that responsibility lies with the employees.

How do I know if the internship benefits the employer or me?

Be aware of the following signs:

  • The experience is not educational in nature.
  • You perform tasks that generally correspond to employees.
  • These tasks are done without sufficient supervision.
  • It was not made clear to you beforehand that you will not receive compensation.
  • Excessive schedules and expectations are required of an intern.

We understand that it is a frustrating situation. However, the action you must take is to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor to receive payment for all the hours you spent working on your internship.

If the alternative mentioned above did not work, the next step to take is to file an official complaint – this is where you should consult with an experienced California employment law attorney. You will waste time doing it on your own as the chances of success without legal advice are low.

You are not alone – our Manukan law firm office has skilled experience lawyers that handled over 100 cases related to salary and employee misclassification matters. Contact us for a free consultation today at (818) 740-4009 in California to receive the compensation you deserve.


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