A group of unpaid interns at NBC have settled a recent lawsuit for a very large sum, according to a report. Approximately 9,000 interns working on “Saturday Night Live” and other shows brought suit against the media giant last summer for back wages. According to the interns, they were either paid nothing or less than minimum wage for their time with NBC. Although this is a victory for the interns, it is important to note that the average class member will only receive approximately $505 before taxes.
Companies have long argued that unpaid internships gain experience and contacts via a “foot in the door.” In reality, many businesses exploit young and inexperienced help and effectively hire them to perform tasks completed by paid employees under the guise of an “internship.” This is an unacceptable practice that needs attention called to it, and thankfully lawsuits like the aforementioned case against NBC bring attention to the problem even if the employees aren’t compensated as much as they should be owed.
Department of Labor Test for Unpaid Interns
In order to properly qualify as unpaid interns, individuals working at a company must meet a test that has been outlined by the United States Department of Labor (as well as any state standards that may be more specific). According to the DOL, in order to properly classify employees as unpaid interns, the interns must be receiving training for their own educational benefit and must meet six specific criteria:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that 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.
If any of the aforementioned factors are not met the relationship between the company and the “intern” likely classifies as an employment relationship whereby all federal and state wage and hour laws must be followed including minimum wage and overtime requirements. If the factors are not met you may be entitled to compensation and should speak with a wage and hour claims lawyer. Because the Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws use a broad definition of the term “employ,” the unpaid intern exclusion is intentionally narrow.
What To Do If You Have Questions as an Unpaid Intern
If you or someone you love is performing unpaid work for a company and questions whether they should be paid, do not hesitate to contact the employment lawyers at Joseph & Norinsberg for a free consultation. Do not fear wrongful termination, as any adverse action taken for asserting your right to collect wages owed to you could breed a subsequent retaliation claim. Contact us today at 212-JUSTICE or [email protected] for an evaluation of your case.