A few weeks ago, in a piece entitled “Thorny Roses: Interns and Potential Wage Liability”, I wrote about PBS talk show host, Charlie Rose, and his production company’s $250,000 settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by a former unpaid intern who claimed minimum-wage violations. On Monday, the assault against unpaid internships continued when a former intern filed a putative class-action lawsuit against Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records, alleging minimum-wage violations. This new lawsuit comes fresh off the heels of a judgment in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., which gave deference to the U.S. Department of Labor’s six criteria and held that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the movie “Black Swan.”
Although the recent spate of unpaid internship cases has been largely confined to the media industry, the cases set a precedent that could eventually ripple outward to other companies and fields – especially since the six criteria employed by the Department of Labor broadly apply to all “for-profit” private sector internships. As law firms representing the unpaid interns have indicated, more and more inquiries are flooding in from interns interested in filing similar suits. Accordingly, employers should take a hard look to ensure that their internship programs are in compliance with the law.