A former intern for multinational publishing company Hearst Corporation has boldly gone where few interns have gone before. She has filed a lawsuit against the publisher, alleging that the unpaid internship violated federal wage and hour laws. Many have praised her bold choice, noting that most interns are too afraid of being blacklisted in the industry to stand up for their rights as workers.
In competitive and glamorous industries like fashion, music, and film, interns and employers alike often consider it a privilege to be allowed to fetch the coffee. However, the reality of employee protections in the United States means that the alleged privilege doesn't suffice as legally recognized compensation. Instead, the lawsuit argues, interns should be paid as the full time employees that they are, or should be compensated with college credit if they are still students.
Prominent figures at national media outlets like Vogue Magazine and CNN have commented on the intern's plight, saying that young people need to learn to pay their dues and stop insisting that they are entitled to pay or school credit. While many working adults would agree - one must work hard and spend time at the bottom of an organization before they can hope to rise in the ranks - this issue goes beyond that when the companies in question deny any sort of meaningful compensation to people that are functioning as full time employees.
Interns in other industries are also speaking up about working conditions. A recent lawsuit filed by production and management interns working for Fox Entertainment Group claims that the conglomerate did not properly compensate interns working on the sets of films.
Since the original lawsuit was filed, interns from other Hearst publications have joined, transforming it into a class action claim.
Our Pittsburgh law firm handles wage and hour disputes. More information is available on our Fair Labor Standards Act page.
Source: New York Magazine, "The Norma Rae of Fashion Interns " Kayleen Schaefer, Sept. 11, 2012