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Unpaid Internships Dwindle as Wage and hour Violations Increase

April 12, 2012

According to a recent USA Today article, many employers are changing the way they handle unpaid internships, as the number of wage and hour lawsuits filed by former interns have increased over the past few years--accusing companies of abusing unpaid internships in order to get quality labor for free.

The article reports that during the recession, unpaid internships became more popular as employers faced restricted budgets--and workers who experienced job loss turned to internships to expand their employment experiences. But this kind of arrangement can encourage employers to substitute low-wage employees with unpaid interns--a violation of the unpaid internship criteria under the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA).

As Vincent Howard reported in a recent Carson labor and employment lawyer blog, unpaid internships are legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act as long as for-profit employers comply with government's strict legal criteria regarding unpaid internships.

Under the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD), in order to qualify for an unpaid internship: the training must be similar to what would be offered in a vocational or educational school, the training should benefit the intern, the intern's work responsibilities must not replace regular paid workers, the employer must not receive any immediate advantage from the intern's activities, and at the end of the training, the interns are not necessarily entitled to employment.

USA Today reports that there are around 1.5 million unpaid internships across the country every year, and as the season for summer internships approaches, many employers are either letting go of unpaid internship programs, or changing them to paid programs--in order to avoid wage and hour lawsuits.

As Vincent Howard recently reported in a Riverside wage and hour attorney blog, over the past year there have been a flurry of high-profile lawsuits against companies like Harper's Bazaar, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and most recently the television program "Charlie Rose"--all filed by former unpaid interns who claim that they performed the work responsibilities of paid employees, and they should have been entitled to fair compensation.

Howard Law, PC represents California and federal wage and hour violation lawsuit issues. Contact Vincent Howard, our Santa Ana, California labor and employment attorney, to discuss your labor and employment rights. Call us today at 1-800-872-5925.

Fewer unpaid internships to be offered, USA Today, March 7, 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)

Related Blog Posts:

'Charlie Rose' Sued by Former Unpaid Intern for Wage and Hour Violations, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 26, 2012

Former Unpaid Intern Files Wage and Hour Lawsuit Against Harper's Bazaar and Hearst, California Employment Lawyers Blog, February 2, 2012

Fox Searchlight Sued by "Black Swan" Unpaid Interns for Wage and Hour Violations , California Employment Lawyers Blog, October 18, 2011

DOL and IRS Combine Forces to Combat Employee Misclassification, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 26, 2011

T. J. Maxx Retail Chain Sued For Employee Misclassification, California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 25, 2011

Employee Misclassification Leads to Nearly $1M in Back Pay for 30 Restaurant Workers, California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 24, 2011

DOL Forces Texas Company to Pay $433K in Back Wages For Employee Misclassification , California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 5, 2011

CA Drug Sales Reps Sue Novo Nordisk in Class Action Wage and Hour Lawsuit, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 28, 2011

Federal Criteria Defining Legality of Unpaid Internships, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 12, 2010

Labor Department Investigates Whether Unpaid Internships Violate Wage and Hour Laws, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 7, 2010