Monday, October 14, 2013

Yamada on Unpaid Internships

DyamadaDavid Yamada has just posted on SSRN his article The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships, (forthcoming, Northeastern University Law Journal), which emerged from a spring symposium at Northeastern Law. Here's the abstract:

Until very recently, the legal implications of unpaid internships provided by American employers have been something of a sleeping giant, especially on the question of whether interns fall under wage and hour protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state equivalents. This began to change in June 2013, when, in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., a U.S. federal district court held that two unpaid interns who worked on the production of the movie “Black Swan” were owed back pay under federal and state wage and hour laws.

This Article examines and analyzes the latest legal developments concerning internships and the growth of the intern rights movement. It serves as an update to a 2002 article I wrote on the employment rights of interns, David C. Yamada, The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns, 35 Conn. L. Rev. 215 (2002). Now that the legal implications of unpaid internships have transcended mostly academic commentary, the underlying legal and policy issues are sharpening at the point of application. Accordingly, Part I will examine the recent legal developments concerning internships, consider the evolving policy issues, and suggest solutions where applicable.

In addition, the intern rights movement has emerged to challenge the widespread practice of unpaid internships and the overall status of interns in today’s labor market. Thus, Part II will examine the emergence of a movement that has both fueled legal challenges to unpaid internships and engaged in organizing activities and social media outreach surrounding internship practices and the intern economy.

David's article discusses legal developments as recent as this month.  As he points out, there are now over a dozen pending intern lawsuits for unpaid wages, and it looks like this issue will be a lively one.  Only two weeks ago a federal district court in New York held that an unpaid intern could not sue her internship provider for sexual harassment under the NYC Human Rights Law because the lack of compensation rendered her unable to meet the definition of an "employee". David wrote it up on his blog here.


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