Thousands of college students in San Diego and throughout U.S. are wrapping up their summer internships as they get ready to start school again this fall. Although many students might not have been paid for their work, they probably gained some great experience and learned some new skills that will help them find a good job in the future.
On the other hand, a recent lawsuit might make some interns question whether employers took advantage of their hard work this summer by violating wage and hour laws. Many interns automatically assume that they are not eligible to receive compensation for their work. Unpaid internships are not illegal, but employers must follow strict guidelines in order to make sure that they do not operate illegal internship programs.
After participating in an unpaid internship program at Fox Searchlight, two interns accused the company of wage and overtime violations. Now the former interns claim that Fox Entertainment Group violated the rights of other interns who worked at the company and did not receive compensation for their work.
The interns are seeking a class-action status lawsuit. A judge is scheduled to review their request this week in order to determine whether the former interns can file a lawsuit on behalf of all other unpaid interns who worked at Fox Entertainment Group.
The former interns had worked on the film Black Swan. They were not paid even though they claim that their work was "crucial" for the production of the film. Two other interns who had worked for Fox Entertainment Group's internship program have made similar claims.
Interns, including unpaid interns, are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This law states that unpaid internships are only lawful when programs offer educational opportunities for students. However, this does not mean that employers can use unpaid interns to replace paid employees.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Fox's Entire Internship Program Now Under Legal Attack," Eriq Gardner, Aug. 13, 2012