California DLSE Underscores That Strict Requirements Still Apply To Unpaid Internships

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On April 7, 2010, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issued an opinion letter addressing the requirements employers must meet in order to have unpaid interns in compliance with California law. Although widely published news reports, including a recent New York Times article analyzing the DLSE’s April 7th opinion letter, have raised hopes that California is relaxing its position with respect to the permissibility of unpaid internships, such optimism appears to be misplaced and employers must continue to exercise caution in this area.

The DLSE’s guidance is timely, as thousands of college graduates and students prepare to hit the job market in search of employment opportunities. Many employers offer internships for a variety of reasons, including providing useful “real world” experience to students seeking to learn more about a particular industry or profession, and trying to help the children of customers, business colleagues, or friends. However altruistic their reasons, employers must be aware that California and federal law severely limit the circumstances under which such internships can be unpaid.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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