Unpaid Internships May Violate Wage Laws

Employers are not allowed to refuse to pay minimum wages and overtime merely because they label workers as “interns.” While an unpaid internship can provide a valuable experience for some people, it also may result in a wage violation for an employer. An example of internship wage violations is a lawsuit brought by unpaid interns alleging overtime and minimum wage violations committed by Fox Searchlight regarding the interns’ work on the film Black Swan. In determining whether an internship may be unpaid, the court looked at six factors: “1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; 2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern; 3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff; 4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded; 5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and 6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.” Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures. The court determined that two production interns who had brought the lawsuit were improperly classified as unpaid interns when they actually were employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and entitled to wages. The interns were providing “an immediate advantage to their employer and performing low-level tasks not requiring specialized training.” The judge also allowed the case to move forward as a class action on behalf of a group of Fox Searchlight interns. This ruling interprets the trainee exception narrowly, and sets the bar very high for not paying interns.

Many people just starting their careers feel pressure to work in unpaid positions to enhance their resumes, but often such unpaid internships do not increase the odds of obtaining a paid position. Moreover, many interns realize their work should be paid, but they are afraid to complain because they fear losing their position. If you worked the time, however, you may be entitled under the law to be paid for it. For example, under the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, if you worked in an unpaid internship for forty-five hours per week for ten weeks, you may be entitled to $3,116 in unpaid minimum wages and $584.50 in unpaid overtime wages. If you have been working in an unpaid internship, call Bober & Bober, P.A. at 800-995-WAGE (9243) for a free consultation about whether you were working as an employee and are entitled to overtime and minimum wages.

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