Can an Intern Sue over Unpaid Wages? Man Files Lawsuit against Los Angeles Clippers

Last month, a former unpaid intern of the Los Angeles Clippers filed a lawsuit claiming the team misclassified him and other interns in an effort to reduce labor costs.

According to the Washington Examiner, Frank Cooper, who worked as a fan relations intern, claims that LAC Basketball Club Inc. and the Sterling Family Trust violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor laws. Cooper claims that he and other unpaid interns were required to do the same work as other paid employees for the franchise.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Cooper claims that he worked 40 to 50 hours per week during his internship from Sept. 28, 2012, until Nov. 17, 2012, all of which was uncompensated.

Cooper claims that when he was required to work on game days, he frequently worked in excess of eight hours per day. He also claimed that he did various tasks for the team including “staffing the fan booths throughout Staples Center, organizing basketball clinics with fans, organizing children’s camps, supervising autograph sessions with players, performing office work and general office management.”

In his lawsuit, Cooper claims that the organization failed to provide him with academic or vocational training, which is a requirement of an internship.

“Plaintiff’s unpaid work for defendants is part of a broader trend where employees are being misclassified as unpaid ‘interns’ in an effort by employers to avoid paying wages as required by state laws and FLSA,” the lawsuit says. “These programs purport to be training programs, but provide little value to the worker while enriching the employer through the provision of free labor.”

I Am an Unpaid Intern. Can I Sue for Pay?

We recently blogged about whether interns or volunteers are eligible for compensation, should they do duties normally assigned to other paid laborers. It should be noted that in California, several corporations have been fined or sued for not paying workers they considered “volunteers” or interns.

If you have an unpaid internship, make sure that you are receiving academic or vocational training, and not just doing labor. Do not get exploited. Many corporations in California, including Fox Searchlight, have been sued in wage or overtime disputes stemming from internships.

If you believe your employer is not paying you the wages you legally deserve, contact our Los Angeles employment lawyers. Call us today to discuss your options.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys