Unpaid Internships San Diego

With summer right around the corner in San Diego, your business is probably thinking about bringing in an unpaid intern or two. And this is typically a win-win situation for both parties – the intern receives valuable on-the-job experience, a good resume booster, and opportunities to network while the company can utilize some unpaid labor. But if the company is not careful, it could face some complicated legal battles. Every state has rules that a company must follow in order to bring in an unpaid intern. You must do the following seven items:

  • Regular workers cannot be replaced by interns.
  • At the end of the internship, interns understand that they are not guaranteed a full-time position.
  • The intern must be supervised.
  • The intern(s) and the supervisor is aware that the interns are not entitled to pay during their internship.
  • Even if it slows down the organization’s work, interns must obtain training from the business.
  • Interns must gain hands-on experience with industry equipment and processes.
  • The intern’s training should be geared towards benefiting them rather then your business.

These rules are set up to ensure that the intern obtains a valuable experience that they can lean on while they are pursuing a full-time job post-graduation while protecting your current employees. Compared to some other states, California’s laws in regards to unpaid internships are considered more lenient. This list used to be a lot longer, but the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement changed its approach in 2010.

However, developing an unpaid internship program that will meet state and federal standards can still be complicated. Before you start your search for an unpaid intern, you must submit an outline of your program to California’s Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE). In it, you must tell the DLSE what you plan on using the intern for and how they will benefit from the program you are establishing while not directly giving your company immediate returns.

While the rules are established to give the intern more benefits, it is possible to obtain benefits for your while working with an intern. Here are some examples that you can use:


  • Have the intern work on a major project with one of your top employees.
  • Have your intern join in on client meetings so they can take notes.
  • Schedule regular training sessions between your intern and various employees.
  • Send your intern out on the field with your regular employees.
  • Provide an outline of your standard work practices to your intern so they know what to expect and follow along with the rest of the team.

It is possible to have a mutually beneficial partnership with the intern that you hire. As long as you are able to follow the seven items that are outlined above, you will be able to remain legally compliant with the DLSE while utilizing some unpaid labor. In order for this partnership to benefit both parties, you need to be able to provide a learning experience that the intern can take with them in the future. And that is what the DLSE is trying to ensure.

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