New York Unpaid Interns Continue to Fight for Rights

As we have discussed in earlier blogs, a culture of not paying interns has evolved. Many college interns willingly take free internships in exchange for resume boosting experience. Sometimes that sought-after experience is little more than administrative and menial labor, like data entry, running errands, and keeping the office clean. Sometimes the intern takes on tasks essential to the company’s operations. In either case, if the intern was not called an intern, he or she would be entitled to pay under New York and federal wage and hour laws.

The good news is there is a clear trend towards recognizing interns as employees and contributors to the organizations for which they work. Interns deserve pay and protection from discrimination like all other employees. Two major developments in the trend are the adoption of statutory protections for interns and the impending decision on unpaid internships by a federal appellate court.

New York Anti-Discrimination Law

Until last year, New York’s State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) did not expressly provide protection against discrimination and harassment to interns. In one 2013 case applying the NYSHRL and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), a federal court confirmed this lack of protection after an intern sued her employer for sexual harassment.

The intern claimed that her supervisor had discussed sexually explicit information with her, lured her into his hotel room on a business trip where he groped her and used force to attempt to kiss her. Subsequently, she claimed retaliation, egregious conduct that would usually strongly favor the plaintiff in the lawsuit.  Unfortunately, the court found that neither NYSHRL nor NYCHRL provided her any protection because the laws only protected employees, not interns.

That case has changed things for interns in New York State. First, in March of 2014, New York City added express protections for interns to its Human Rights Law. A few months later, New York State passed legislation extending discrimination and harassment protection to interns.

Second Circuit Hears Consolidated Unpaid Intern Cases

In a prior blog we discussed Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, the case in which two interns succeeded in a lawsuit against Fox on the grounds that its failure to pay them a minimum wage and overtime during their unpaid internship was illegal under New York and federal wage and hour laws.

Another case, Wang v. The Hearst Corporation, decided a year prior to Glatt, was less favorable for interns. The court there applied a different test from the one utilized in Glatt and found that the interns were not entitled to compensation under New York State and federal law.

Not surprisingly, both cases were appealed and the 2nd Circuit, a federal appellate court, and heard oral arguments on them earlier this year.  No opinion has been issued on either case, but we are awaiting the outcome which will significantly impact the rights of interns in New York.

The cases have gained such widespread media attention and public support that many employers have already begun shifting how they treat unpaid interns.

Wage and Hour Cases

Cases related to non-payment of minimum wage and overtime are not limited to interns.  Employees are entitled to minimum wage for their work and often, overtime pay for hours over 40 per week. If you have not been paid or have been underpaid by your employer contact the New York employment law attorneys at Joseph & Norinsberg at (212) JUSTICE or info@employeejustice.com.

2020-09-17T22:27:50+00:00July 16th, 2015|Wage & Hour Violations|

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I am very amazed and pleased for the wonderful work Diego Barros did for me and our co-workers, speechless to see how wonderful and constructive everything work. First time with Diego Barros and i am totally impressed to have seen how great you have worked for all of us, i will totally recommend you to anybody who is in need of help without at doubt at all in all senses.

Mr. Diego helped me WIN and reach a great settlement. Wages recovered from lack of pay and serious misconducts from employer. He was very informative and easy to talk to every step of the way. Very happy with the settlement I received. He will go for the win and get you what you deserve! If you having problems with employment I give Mr. Diego my full recommendation to get your issues resolved.

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To have Bennitta Joseph who wins high profile cases against companies like Delta is a win for any company. The fact that they equip entrepreneurs like me with tools to compete with fortune 500 is a competitive advantage. If you are a company that deals with people and wants to succeed, hiring her is a must!

This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought. The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great. Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone. Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them. The situation I went through will help me going forward.

This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought. The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great. Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone. Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them. The situation I went through will help me going forward.

Bennitta Joseph is committed to Justice. After be wronged at work in 2015, and discriminated against I felt very hopeless and wronged. I felt as though I had no hope standing up to a corporate giant, and no chance of winning. After explaining my case and sharing the facts Bennitta felt differently. She did warn me it would be a long and tough road and that I had to have thick skin. In my experience if you take Bennitta’s lead and trust her legal experience no case it too big, or too small for her…

Me trataron muy bien y estoy satisfecho con el servicio. Inicialmente llamé para unirme a un caso anterior, pero cuando ya era demasiado tarde para unirme a ese caso, estaban felices de luchar por un segundo caso. No pensé que podrían hacer que otro caso funcionara, pero lo hicieron. Aprendí cuáles son mis derechos en cuanto a salario mínimo y tiempo extra y puedo usar esta información en el futuro. Recomiendo mucho la oficina.

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I am very amazed and pleased for the wonderful work Diego Barros did for me and our co-workers, speechless to see how wonderful and constructive everything work. First time with Diego Barros and i am totally impressed to have seen how great you have worked for all of us, i will totally recommend you to anybody who is in need of help without at doubt at all in all senses.
Ysaac G
Mr. Diego helped me WIN and reach a great settlement. Wages recovered from lack of pay and serious misconducts from employer. He was very informative and easy to talk to every step of the way. Very happy with the settlement I received. He will go for the win and get you what you deserve! If you having problems with employment I give Mr. Diego my full recommendation to get your issues resolved. 
D.F.
To have Bennitta Joseph who wins high profile cases against companies like Delta is a win for any company. The fact that they equip entrepreneurs like me with tools to compete with fortune 500 is a competitive advantage. If you are a company that deals with people and wants to succeed, hiring her is a must!
Karleen L.
This was the first and hopefully my last lawsuit and the process wasn’t what I thought.  The patience shown to me (even when I became frustrated) was great.  Everyone showed respect, sensitivity, and I’d recommend the firm to everyone.  Losing my job set me behind on several bills, but I can now pay them.  The situation I went through will help me going forward. 
Isaiah B.
I had an excellent experience with the firm and with Bennitta Joseph as my attorney. Everyone I dealt with was extremely courteous, friendly and very helpful. The settlement will help me financially as I look for a job.
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