INTERN INTEREST INTENSIFIES: Three Class-Action Lawsuits Could Have Major Ramifications on How Companies Compensate Their Interns

By Heller, Matthew | Workforce Management, May 2012 | Go to article overview
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INTERN INTEREST INTENSIFIES: Three Class-Action Lawsuits Could Have Major Ramifications on How Companies Compensate Their Interns


Heller, Matthew, Workforce Management


An internship at Harper's Bazaar might seem like a high-profile passageway into a career in mass communications. It is, after all, one of the top women's fashion magazines with a circulation of more than 700,000, and work experience there is guaranteed to stand out on any résumé.

But in a class-action lawsuit filed in February, a woman who worked for Harper's Bazaar last year as its head accessories intern complains that her employment violated the wage-and-hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act because she was not paid for her work. Xuedan Wang says in her lawsuit against Hearst Corp., which publishes the magazine, that she regularly worked more than 40 hours a week.

"Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work," the lawsuit says.

The case is one of three proposed class actions involving unpaid internships that have been filed in recent months against media companies. Fox Searchlight Pictures, a film production company, and talk show host Charlie Rose are the other employers who have been sued by former interns.

Employment law experts say the cases, which have followed a U.S. Labor Department crackdown on internships, could help to clarify when an intern should be paid. "It really isn't clear what the parameters are," says John Thompson, a partner in the law firm Fisher & Phillips in Atlanta.

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