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'Charlie Rose' Sued by Former Unpaid Intern for Wage and Hour Violations

March 26, 2012

Another wage and hour lawsuit related to an unpaid internship has been filed this month in the entertainment industry, after a former unpaid intern who worked on the television talk show "Charlie Rose" claimed, along with other interns, to have been subjected to violations of New York State wage laws--by being classified as unpaid interns, and not employees, and for not being compensated for the hours of work they performed.

The increase of wage and hour lawsuits related to unpaid internships in the entertainment, fashion, and media industries continue to grab headlines, as a rising number of young workers claim to have experienced wage and hour violations by employers, after seeking unpaid internships in order to gain experience and possible future employment.

As Vincent Howard discussed in our Santa Ana employment lawyers blog, a lawsuit was recently filed against Harper's Bazaar, after a former unpaid intern accused the fashion magazine of violating wage and hour laws. Last year, Fox Searchlight Pictures was also sued by two former unpaid interns who claimed that they experienced wage and hour law violations while working on the making of the film, "Black Swan," by being forced to perform the employment duties of full-time paid employees.

In the "Charlie Rose" wage and hour lawsuit, Lucy Bickerton claimed that she was not compensated at all while working 25 hours a week as an unpaid intern from June until August of 2007, and aims to include all unpaid interns who worked for the program since March 2006, seeking class action status.

The proposed class action wage and hour lawsuit accuses the show, which reportedly operates on a small yearly budget, of frequently using around 10 unpaid interns to perform the work of actual employees, failing to pay the interns for their work. Bickerton, a 2008 college graduate, claims that her internship responsibilities included doing background research for the guest interviews, walking guests to the set, compiling press packets, breaking down the daily show set, and performing the post-show cleaning of the green room. The lawsuit claims that the interns were not compensated in any way, despite the significant work that they performed on the show.

The New York State Department of Labor states that unpaid internships are only legally permitted when used within the parameters of an educational training program, where the employer gains no immediate benefit from their work. Under the Labor Department guidance, if an employer uses interns to replace the responsibilities of workers, or to supplement the existing work team generally, or during specific time periods, those interns should be treated as normal employees. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) companies are also allowed to have unpaid interns if there is an educational benefit involved, as long as interns do not replace regular employees.

Many labor advocates claim that employers often use unpaid internships to get free labor by allowing the unpaid interns to do the jobs of actual employees--which violates state and federal laws, and causes the interns to miss out on important educational experience that should be the primary focus of internship.

Bickerton's wage and hour lawsuit claims that unpaid internships are becoming the modern entry-level position--except for the fact that they receive no compensation for their work. The lawsuit was reportedly filed under New York State law instead of federal law, as New York State allows lawsuits over wage and hour violations to go back six years, as opposed to the federal wage law limit of three years.

In cities throughout Orange County, California, contact Howard Law's labor and employment attorney, Vincent Howard today, to discuss your California wage and hour issue.

Former Intern at 'Charlie Rose' Sues, Alleging Wage Law Violations, The New York Times, March 15, 2012

Intern sues TV host Charlie Rose for unpaid wages, Reuters, March 14, 2012

Hollywood Docket: Charlie Rose Intern Lawsuit; Ron Paul vs. YouTube; and More, The Hollywood Reporter, March 15, 2012

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)