Nationwide, unpaid internship arrangements have been scrutinized for low wages and potential violations of state and federal labor laws. While some claim that the legal scrutiny of unpaid internships is putting programs and opportunities at risk, other worker rights advocacy groups see the internships as a way to squeeze cheap labor out of inexperienced and vulnerable unemployed. In a recent case, Warner Brothers is facing a class action led by a former unpaid intern who was living in a homeless shelter when he started his position.
According to a Newsweek investigation, the plaintiff was required to get drinks for two different vice presidents. The Warner Brothers executives also required that the intern take lunch orders and pick up dry-cleaning. He knew that the job duties had nothing to do with radio promotions, but he did it anyway, hoping to make a name for himself. Our Orange County employment law attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of American workers, including unpaid interns in California. In addition to providing sounds counsel and support to our clients, we are also committed to staying abreast of employment law issues and legal trends that impact the national workforce.
The Department of Labor guidelines require that unpaid internships must be to the benefit of the intern rather than to the employer. Employers who agree to provide training at no cost, must not derive any immediate advantage from the labor performed. The guidelines go on to state that in some cases, operations may be impeded or slowed by training capacities. The intern at Warner Brothers often worked 12 hour shifts, showing up early and leaving late, just to maintain his job. For eight months, he worked without compensation and then he was fired.
Like many interns who have been taken advantage of and exploited by large media companies, the intern has become the representative of a class of employees who once took unpaid internships at Warner Brothers. The class was certified in May and is now proceeding on behalf of anyone who has worked for Warner Brothers over the past three years. According to the lawsuit, the class is estimated to be around 3,000 interns. The class forum is likely to benefit the plaintiffs as all confirmed that their work went uncompensated and that they were forced to perform menial office tasks.
Many think that those who take unpaid internships are children of the wealthy, but this is not the case. As this intern’s story reveals, even those who cannot afford to work for free may do it, simply to get ahead. According to ProPublica, over half of graduating college seniors had some type of internship during school. This is double the rate of internships 20 years ago. Unpaid interns should have a clear understanding of their rights before taking on a position. If you were misled about potential opportunities through an unpaid internship or were improperly denied wages, an experienced advocate can review your case. Interns may also face a host of other legal issues, including sexual harassment, wage and hour claims, discrimination, and other labor law violations.
Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group. Call 949.375.4734.
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