Interns fight back against working for free

Jun 19, 2013

Job Fair Held In New York

A student registers at a college career fair with jobs and internships.; Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Warner Music Group is the latest company to be hit with a lawsuit by a former unpaid intern. Justin Henry filed a class action lawsuit against Warner on Monday alleging that he should have been paid for the four months he spent interning for Atlantic Records. A federal judge in New York opened the floodgates for these types of lawsuits when he ruled that unpaid interns who worked on the Fox Searchlight Pictures film “BlackSwan” should have been paid for their work. The judge ruled that Fox violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying the interns.

In Los Angeles, a court case is pending against fashion designer Brian Lichtenberg, who was sued by former unpaid intern Karissa Labriola.

For some, unpaid internships are a great way to get your foot in the door, gain connections and earn valuable work experience. Others see them as a way for companies to exploit young people who are eager to work in competitive industries.

Are unpaid internships exploitative or helpful to young people just starting out? What makes an unpaid internship illegal?  Should these interns be allowed to sue when they agreed to work for no pay? Would you consider taking an unpaid internship just for the work experience?

Maurice Pianko, Director and lead attorney for Intern Justice, a website that gives legal information and services to unpaid workers.

Neal McCluskey, PhD, associate director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom

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