Interns for the movie Black Swan, magazine Harper’s Bazaar and the Charlie Rose show are suing. They claim they should’ve been paid for the work they performed. Can they win in court?
It sounds like they might have a case.
What they’re alleging:
- The Black Swan lawsuit. A group of former interns is suing Fox Searchlight Pictures, the producer of Black Swan, claiming they were wrongfully classified as unpaid interns. They claim they worked as production assistants, bookkeepers, secretaries and janitors for the betterment of the company. They claim to have received no educational training or credits, or wages for their work.
- The Harper’s Bazaar lawsuit. A former intern is suing Hearst Corporation, the magazine’s publisher, claiming she was also misclassified. She claims to have been the equivalent of an entry-level employee, coordinating deliveries, managing expense reports and assisting with photo shoots, while receiving no wages.
- The Charlie Rose show lawsuit. A former intern is suing Mr. Rose and his production company, claiming the show has interns perform background research about guests, assemble press packets, escort guests through the studio, break down the set and clean up the green room — all without compensation.
If the interns’ claims are proven true, the companies have an uphill battle ahead of them. The DOL recently said that for an internship to be unpaid, it must satisfy all six of these criteria:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If the interns’ claims are proven, it seems hard to fathom the companies being sued could convince a court the internships pass this six-point test.