So, good damn news today: It might soon be a thing of the past.
The first domino fell last December, when a class action lawsuit brought by a former intern for the Charlie Rose Show ended in a $250,000 settlement. A New York court contended that the show had violated state labor laws, essentially because the producers had promised the various liberal-arts school types an educational experience, and instead given them an honest-to-god unpaid job. At the time, another lawsuit led by two interns on the Mila Kunis-Natalie Portman movie Black Swan was also snaking its way through the courts. It too became a class action deal, taking under its wing former interns from the production and corporate divisions of Fox Entertainment.
Yesterday, the former interns won that case against Fox. A federal judge ruled that the kids worked as paid employees, and should be compensated like paid employees, saying, “They were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are 'employees' covered by” the the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as New York's labor laws. “They worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer and performing low-level tasks not requiring specialized training.”
In other words, the charade of the unpaid internship as an educational experience has been exposed. It's all bullshit. You should be getting paid for working as a low-level employee.
This marks the first time a federal U.S. court has ruled on the matter, and it could spark a wave of similar class-action lawsuits from other former and current unpaid interns. It's really a big deal. There's a precedent now, and the judges in the future won't be going off the uncharted territory of the Fox case.
Here are the six criteria employers now will feel the pressure to meet in order to justify not paying their college kids, via the Atlantic Wire:
The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
As you can see, the first three criteria are CONSTANTLY ignored. Look for another lawsuit soon.
[H/T: The Atlantic Wire]