On Wednesday, Lucy Bickerton, who was an editorial intern at the nightly talk show, “Charlie Rose,” between June and August, 2007, filed a suit against the popular show host claiming that she had regularly worked 25 hours per week on an average, but was not paid any wages.
The proposed class-action lawsuit filed in New York claims “Central to the show’s lean production are the substantial number of unpaid interns who work on The Charlie Rose Show each day, but are paid no wages … Despite the significant work they perform, Charlie Rose interns are not compensated for any of their work, in violation of New York Labor Law.”
In a similar lawsuit filed last month against Hearst Corporation, lawyers argued “Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.” In the same suit it has been alleged that “Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work.”
However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a U.S. company may legally offer unpaid internships so long as they are educational and benefit the intern and not necessarily the employer. In sympathy to the employer who gets manpower without paying wages in the form of academic internees, the Department of Labor says “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.” However, the Department holds regular employees may not be displaced by such internees. Well, who needs regular employees as long as there’s a continuous stream of aspiring students ready to work for free?
The plaintiff claims she did not receive any training from the company and dares the company to prove that it has a formal academic or vocational training program in place which benefited the unpaid interns.
If it can be shown that particular job functions or parts of them were consistently manned only by unpaid interns, without sufficient regular employees to handle the same workload, then labor laws are definitely being broken.
The suit claims that the Charlie Rose Show and more than 200 affiliates across the United States regularly used at least 10 unpaid interns, as would be proved by their budget which has no space for any spending or plans to recruit regular employees to handle the functions carried by unpaid interns.