College students and recent graduates across the country are more than likely familiar with unpaid internships. These unpaid positions are frequently described as educational stepping-stones to paying jobs.
Some unpaid internships may require interns to carry out tasks performed by paid employees. Over the last five years, unpaid interns at several companies have filed lawsuits demanding compensation for their work. These companies include Fox Searchlight Pictures, Conde Nast, Viacom, Warner Music Group and NBCUniversal. All of these companies have reached settlements with interns.
Fox Searchlight was the most recent company to settle with unpaid interns. If the settlement is approved by the judge, most of the interns involved will receive $495. The three lead plaintiffs in the case could receive $3,500 to $7,500.
In 2013, the judge presiding over the case ruled that Fox Searchlight had violated the U.S. Department of Labor’s six-point criteria for unpaid internships. Fox Searchlight appealed this decision and the case dragged on for another three years before coming to a close. One important outcome of the case: it created a new test for determining the legality of internships.
When Are Unpaid Internships Illegal?
During Glatt vs. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. (the case mentioned above), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the Department of Labor’s six-point test. This rejection could influence the decisions of other courts. In future litigation, the Department of Labor’s six-point test could be used, or the new ‘primary beneficiary test’ could be utilized. It would be up to the discretion of the court.
Whether or not unpaid internships are illegal is a question that is currently undergoing changes. There is no clarity on the issue, and legality depends on many different factors. This is why it is extremely important for unpaid interns to contact an attorney if they feel their positions are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Los Angeles labor law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. will fight for the rights of workers hurt by unpaid wages.