Last month, this Blog reported on a pair of recent lawsuits filed by former unpaid interns for The Hearst Corp and Fox Searchlight Pictures claiming that they should have been paid for work they performed for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar and on production of the 2010 film “Black Swan.” This week, a similar law suit was filed in the Southern District of New York by a former “Editorial Intern” for the nightly PBS talk show, “The Charlie Rose Show.”
The complaint in the new case, Bickerton v. Rose et al., alleges that “[u]npaid internships have proliferated among white collar professions, especially in fields like politics, film, fashion, journalism and book publishing” and that the defendants’ internship program “runs afoul of state wage and hour laws.” The plaintiff claims that she should have been paid for time she spent performing job duties such as assembling press packets, escorting show guests through the studio, and performing background research.
In recent years, unpaid internships have become increasingly popular option, as young professionals seek to gain experience in a tough job market and employers look for creative ways to grow their businesses while keeping labor costs low. Such programs, however, have also proved to be a lightening rod for litigation. Under the FLSA, for-profit employers can hire unpaid interns without running afoul of the FLSA, but only if they meet the DOL’s stringent six-factor test for “trainees.” This new lawsuit should serve as a further reminder to employers to evaluate their internship programs to make sure they comply with state and federal law.