As a result of the influx of unpaid intern litigation, the outcome is bound to have an inevitable impact on the way unpaid internships are utilized in the workplace. The fearlessness with which unpaid interns are pursuing benefits to which they have historically had no entitlement has gained momentum, and is here for the long haul.
December 2012: former intern Lucy Bickerton settled her lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court against PBS talk show “The Charlie Rose Show” and Charlie Rose, on behalf of nearly 200 unpaid interns for $250,000.
June 4, 2013: , the Oregon Senate unanimously passed a bill (HB 2669) extending employment protection against discrimination and harassment, that had previously been reserved for employees, to unpaid interns performing work for educational purposes.
June 11, 2013: in Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, et al., v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, of the Southern District of New York, issued an unprecedented opinion that is not only favorable to former unpaid interns, but is bound to have monumental implications on the future of all unpaid internships.
Judge Pauley held that “considering the totality of the circumstances,” the named plaintiffs, interns, who worked on the movie “Black Swan,” were employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law and entitled to wages from Fox Searchlight, which was found to be their joint employer.
As part of his opinion, Judge Pauley also granted class certification to a group of unpaid interns who worked in several divisions of the Fox Entertainment Group in New York.
Since Judge Pauley’s ruling unpaid interns have rallied with an arsenal of new lawsuits challenging the legality of unpaid internships, including two former Condé Nast interns who filed a class action lawsuit in New York federal court alleging the publishing company violated federal and state wage and hour laws by failing to pay its interns the minimum wage rate, a former intern at Warner Music Group who filed a class action complaint against the company in New York County Supreme Court accusing the music recording and publishing company of failing to pay “minimum wages and overtime compensation” in violation of state wage and hour laws, and three former interns at online media company Gawker who filed a class action complaint against the company in New York federal court alleging violations of federal and state wage and hour laws.
The inclusion of unpaid internships as part of the workforce will undoubtedly undergo a major overhaul as businesses look for alternative ways to minimize labor costs and remain competitive in the marketplace.