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Be Careful of Unpaid Interns and Volunteers

Added by Hawley Troxell in Articles & Publications, Employment Law on March 4, 2014

Over the past few years, significant attention has been given to the issue of whether a company’s interns and volunteers must be paid. For example:

  • In April 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor issued Fact Sheet #71 regarding whether interns must be paid minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • Several lawsuits have been brought claiming that unpaid interns should have been paid. In one of the more prominent recent unpaid intern cases, Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., the judge ruled that unpaid interns working on the movie Black Swan were actually employees who should have been paid under the FLSA.
  • Some major companies have been canceling or reducing their internship programs as a result of the recent unpaid intern cases. For instance, publisher Condé Nast responded to a lawsuit by former interns by ending its internship program.
  • Others are claiming that well-known events, such as the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin starting later this week, are running afoul of the FLSA by using large numbers of unpaid volunteers and interns to run the events.

What is the takeaway from all this intern and volunteer activity? If your company uses volunteers or interns who are not paid for what they do, you will want to carefully evaluate whether your volunteer or internship program complies with the FLSA.

If you have any questions regarding using volunteers or interns or about the FLSA or other employment matters, please contact a member of our employment group or call 208.344.6000.