Volunteers & Interns under California Law

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Both federal and state law provide minimum wage, overtime, and other protections (such as working conditions, meal and rest periods, call-in pay, etc.) to employees. The definitions of an “employee” are sometimes confusing. Typically, an “employee” is anyone who is “employed by an employer.” To “employ” someone is defined as “to engage, suffer, or permit to work.” What this means is that an employer can create an employment relationship not only by proactively requesting that the person perform services, but also by allowing the person to perform services that benefit the employer. It can be a gray area. To further complicate matters, just because an individual agrees to work without pay, does not necessarily exempt the employer from the liability to pay wages. Workers are not free to waive their legal rights to minimum wage or overtime.

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