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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Unpaid Interns

Court Moves to End Exploitation of Interns

Increasingly, over the last few years, a wide range of companies have sought and exploited interns to work for no pay, promising them “educational benefits” that will benefit them in their future careers. The abuse has been widespread, from publishing companies, law firms and financial services companies to film, television and music studios. A recent verdict in a federal case in Manhattan may be the first step toward bringing this wrongful practice to an end.

In June, 2013, federal district court judge William H. Pauley III issued a ruling on behalf of two interns who worked for Fox Searchlight Pictures, holding that the interns were essentially employees and, as such, should have been paid for the work they did. The plaintiffs, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, had worked as production interns on the set of the Academy Award winning film “Black Swan.” They took the internships with the expectation that they would receive training in skills that they could later use to obtain jobs within the film industry. Instead, they found themselves performing menial tasks, such as answering phones, taking and picking up lunch orders, tracking purchase orders, assembling office furniture, and even arranging other employee’s travel plans.

Judge Pauley concluded that unpaid internships have limited scope, and ought not to be used to displace paid employees. The defendants had argued that the court should adopt a “primary benefits test,” looking only at whether the benefits to the intern outweighed the benefits to the company. The court rejected this argument as too subjective and unpredictable. Instead, Judge Pauley pointed to other criteria included in the Department of Labor’s six-part test for determining the legality of unpaid internships, specifically the following provisions:

  • That the work must not offer an immediate advantage to the employer
  • That the work must be comparable to vocational training in an academic environment
  • That the intern’s work must not replace that of regular employees

The court also ruled that whether or not the intern is receiving college credit for the internship is of little consequence in determining whether interns should be paid.

Stop Intern Exploitation!!

We provide comprehensive and aggressive legal counsel to exploited interns. At the offices of Leeds Brown Law, P.C., and Virginia and Ambinder, LLP, we have combined our resources to protect the rights of unpaid interns. We have filed class action lawsuits to protect unpaid interns, and are gathering evidence and information to prepare and file additional claims. We will serve as co-counsel in litigation across the United States.

Contact Our Offices

If you spent time as an unpaid intern, but received little or no educational benefit, we can help you seek compensation as part of class action litigation. To learn more about the litigation, and find out whether you qualify for a potential claim, call us at (516)-873-9500 or (212)943-9080 (toll free at 800-585-4658), or contact us online.

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