Governor Cuomo Pushes Increased Minimum Wage

Minimum wage ImageNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed President Obama this week by championing a raise for the lowest paid workers:  “We would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 statewide and in New York City… to $11.50.”  New York State’s minimum wage currently exceeds the Federal minimum wage at $8.75 per hour.   In his annual State of the State address, Cuomo address growing wage disparities: “We believe if you work full time, you should be able to pay the rent and pay for food and not live in poverty.”

Gov. Cuomo was not alone in this week in addressing minimum wage concerns. President Obama made his third consecutive plea with Congress to adjust the minimum wage for all workers, and encouraged Congress to try to live on $15,000 per year. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise,” he said.  Obama has previously directed the Labor Department to revise overtime rules.

One of the largest groups of workers in the modern economy that do not receive proper minimum wage are interns — especially in media, fashion, and entertainment industries. For other employees and without realizing it, companies may pay employees less than minimum wage if asked to work during meal breaks, when they have to travel from job sites, and if they have their tips stolen while working in the restaurant or catering industry.



NYC Council Considers Internship Bill

At a hearing held on March 17, 2014, the New York City Council considered testimony on a bill that would grant interns the same rights as other workers for discrimination and harassment under the NYCHRL (NYC Human Rights Law). Currently most of these laws do not expand to interns because they are not deemed “employees.”

Metro US covered the meeting here.

Forbes Magazine: Unpaid Intern Lawsuits May Reduce Job Opportunities

It was once commonplace to forego wages for an opportunity to gain work experience and connections. This may have been put to rest after an influx of unpaid internship lawsuits. Requiring interns to work without pay has been illegal since the minimum wage law was enacted in 1938, however, only recently have unpaid interns brought lawsuits. Between June and August of 2013, unpaid interns filed lawsuits against large corporations, among them: Condé Nast Publications, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Recording, Gawker Media, Fox Entertainment Group, NBC Universal, Viacom, Sony, Universal Music Group, Bad Boy Entertainment, and Donna Karan. Full article.
In June 2013, a New York Federal Court held that Fox Searchlight’s unpaid interns were “employees” subject to the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Fox Searchlight was unable to show the Court that the company provided “something beyond on-the-job training that employees receive” to unpaid interns. The benefits provided by Fox Searchlight, such as “resume listings, job references, and an understanding of how a production office works,” were insufficient to render the employer exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirement for the interns. The Court determined that the unpaid interns added a value to the company and, in turn, took the place of a regularly paid employee. As such, the company must pay these interns minimum wage and overtime.
Leeds Brown Law PC dedicates a large portion of its practice to the area of employment discrimination. If you worked as an unpaid intern and you believe your rights have been violated, it is important to contact an experienced attorney immediately to preserve your rights. The firm has represented individuals throughout Long Island and the New York City area in matters of wage and hour law. For more information, contact Leeds Brown Law at 1-800-585-4658 for a free consultation or visit

NY Times: All Work, No Pay for Interns

The New York Times, once again, explores the implications of the culture of internships — both social, economic and legal. Check out this article from February 14, 2014.

The article goes on to quote a former intern: “In any given month, I’d say I apply to at least 300 full-time jobs,” she said, noting these attempts were to no avail. “On the other hand, I can apply to one or two internship positions a month and get a call back from both.”

The story continues: “Call them members of the permanent intern underclass: educated members of the millennial generation who are locked out of the traditional career ladder and are having to settle for two, three and sometimes more internships after graduating college, all with no end in sight.”

This is a trend that is all-to-familiar to our clients.

“Lately, however, long-suffering interns are starting to do more than complain. They point to the Labor Department’s six criteria for legal internships, which stipulate that companies that do not pay interns must provide vocational education and refrain from substituting interns for paid employees, among others.”

The article also mentions a pending LB and V&A cases: Warner Music.

Newsday Column: Unpaid Internships & Social Mobility

Anne Michaud of Newsday, explored some of the underpinnings of unpaid American Dreaminternships and social mobility in her column on August 23, 2013, entitled “Internships and the American Dream” .

“Opportunities like these should be open to people up and down the socioeconomic ladder, achieved mainly by smarts and diligence. And that’s the problem with unpaid internships. They reinforce the declining social mobility in America.”

One of the principal arguments against unpaid internships is the requirement that you be  well-suited enough to afford living on no wages for several weeks or months while you pursue those internships. If you can afford to borrow from your family or live at home, that’s fantastic. But many Americans cannot afford to work for free, pay rent and afford food. That denies a large portion of the population the ability to gain experience and move up the corporate ladder — because they cannot afford to take unpaid internships. Ms. Michaud flushes out part of that argument in her piece.

Ms. Michaud concludes: “Interns, by definition, are in a fragile position — trying to get a foothold in an occupation, aiming to please. It’s a shame to exploit that eagerness by paying them nothing.”




Watch Group: Unpaid Internships Cost Jobs and Cause Image Problems

According to a watch group that focuses on internship, getting a job with unpaid internship experience equates to a 1% greater chance of obtaining a job, compared with no internship experience at all.

In a statement released last week, InternMatch stated: “The millions of unpaid internships in the U.S. every year are costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. While paid internships turn into a job 60 percent of the time, unpaid internship experience offers a measly 1 percent bump over no internship experience at all (37 percent vs. 36 percent). This should sound an alarm for everyone defending the ‘pay your dues and you’ll be better off long-term’ argument.”

According to the data the group has collected, paid internships draw more attention from prospective talent and are far more likely to lead to paid positions.  The use of unpaid internships also has a negative association, according to the group.

“Providing interns with an unpaid, under-educational experience can ruin your image as an employer of interns and full-time employees, while creating a paid intern program is good business. It helps to find more talented students (paid positions get 2.7 times as many applications as unpaid roles), helps increase conversion of interns to full-time hires, and creates more buy-in from students during their internship.”

The group concludes, “By not paying interns and allowing students to ‘pay their dues,’ businesses are actually setting themselves up for serious legal troubles.