Posted Sep 29, 2011 12:44 pm CDT
Under labor laws, for-profit companies generally can’t legally replace a paid worker with an unpaid intern. But some employers nonetheless do so, and there’s no shortage of young people eager to get a foot in the door in a down economy who are willing to work for free.
There a risk to such arrangements, however, especially since enforcement and lawsuits concerning alleged wage-and-hour violations and misclassification of workers is reportedly on the rise.
In one of the latest examples of a significant claimed violation, two men who worked as unpaid interns on a hit movie, in what the New York Times (req. req.) describes as a widespread industry practice, have filed suit seeking class action status on behalf of 100 or so of their compatriots.
The defendant is Fox Searchlight Pictures, the producer of Black Swan. A representative says the company hasn’t yet had a chance to review the suit, which was filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.
It contends that the company uses interns to do the routine work of bookkeepers, secretaries, janitors and production assistants that cannot legally be performed by unpaid workers.
“Black Swan had more than $300 million in revenues,” former intern and lead plaintiff Alex Footman, 24, tells the newspaper. “If they paid us, it wouldn’t make a big difference to them, but it would make a huge difference to us.”
ABAJournal.com: “Law Firms Beware: Unpaid Internships May Violate Labor Law, Practitioners Say”
ABAJournal.com: “Fla. Law Schools See Flood of Law Firm Requests for Unpaid Summer Associates”
ABAJournal.com: “4 US Open Umpires Sue for Overtime Pay, Allege 100s Were Misclassified as Independent Contractors”
ABAJournal.com: “Calif. Seeks $17M in Back Wages, OT and Penalties from ZipRealty re Alleged Misclassified Workers”
Blog of Legal Times: “D.C. Appeals Court Weighs in On Law Firm Employment Dispute”