Why and how using unpaid interns could end up costing you big time

Exploiting ‘cheap labor’ under the guise of an educational opportunity for eager young minds can backfire. Check out the federal guidelines—and California’s stringent standards—to be safe.

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The scene is often played out in movies, TV shows and books: A young, haggard intern hurriedly fetches coffee, makes copies and run errands for her boss.

In exchange, she gets firsthand knowledge and exposure in a glamorous field, such as the fashion world, the movie business or the magazine industry.

The intern doesn’t receive a paycheck; her compensation is that she gets to be there at the office, witness real professionals working and, of course, add credibility to her resume. The employer, on the other hand, gets the benefit of her services while minimizing costs.

Although this scene is quite common in both movies and the real world, it is not necessarily in compliance with federal or California Wage and Hour laws. Employers who hire unpaid interns face potential legal troubles, including costly class-action lawsuits.

Lawsuits by unpaid interns are a growing trend

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