There have been several stories about lawsuits involving interns in the news throughout the past year, and now it seems the latest lawsuit dealing with interns and pay involves Viacom. Viacom holds Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, and MTV and is the latest in a string of media companies to have a policy dealing with internships come back to cost them. So, what can employers, employees, and interns learn from this latest case?
Workers Cannot Be Replaced With Unpaid Interns
The cornerstone of the Viacom lawsuit is that the company replaced paid employees with unpaid interns. In April 2014, a US District Court judge wrote that the plaintiff in the case, a former intern at MTV who was unpaid, had shown enough proof that interns working for the company may have been “victims of a common policy to replace paid workers with unpaid interns” and that they could be entitled to recover unpaid wages for their time with Viacom. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unpaid interns cannot replace regular paid employees. Interns are to work under staff supervision, which gives them experience but may not necessarily benefit the company.
Rules Regarding Unpaid Internships
Now that 2015 has rolled around and there is a new semester here, it is a great time for both employees, employers, and potential interns to relearn the rules that govern unpaid internships under to federal labor laws. These rules include:
- The interns’ duties must be similar in nature to training that they would be given in any educational environment.
- The internship should only be for the benefit of the intern.
- The employer that is providing the training must not gain any advantage from the activities that the intern engages in.
- The intern cannot replace regular paid employees.
- There must not be any guarantee of a job following the completion of the intern’s time at the company or their full internship.
- All parties must understand that the internship is unpaid.
If these rules are not followed, it exposes a company to a lawsuit from both current and former unpaid interns. If you, or someone you know, have been an unpaid intern or are currently in an unpaid internship and have questions or concerns, contact our offices today for a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney. (918) 582 – 2500
Other employment law information on our site:
- What Is Wage Theft?
- How To Legally Request An Accommodation At Work