December 20, 2012

The end of unpaid internships?

Steven Greenhouse, NY Times -  Charlie Rose and his production company have agreed to pay as much as $250,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by a former unpaid intern who claimed minimum wage violations.

Under the settlement, Mr. Rose and his production company, Charlie Rose Inc., will pay back wages to a potential class of 189 interns. The settlement calls for the interns to receive generally $1,100 each — $110 a week in back pay, up to a maximum of 10 weeks, the approximate length of a school semester.

....Workplace experts say hundreds of thousands of young Americans work as unpaid interns each year as they seek to gain experience and get a foothold in with highly desired employers in coveted industries. But some interns and labor advocates assert that many employers who use unpaid interns are violating federal and state laws by using them essentially to do the jobs of other workers and by not providing a true educational experience.

Ms. Bickerton’s lawsuit asserted that according to the New York State Department of Labor, “an unpaid internship is only lawful in the context of an educational training program, when the interns do not perform productive work and the employer derives no benefit.” The lawsuit cites guidance from the state Labor Department that says: “If an employer uses trainees as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing work force during specific times or in general, these interns would be treated as employees.”

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