New Trend in Employment Law: Unpaid Intern Class Action Suits on the Rise

A New York federal judge, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe, recently certified a class of approx. 3,000 Warner Music Group Corp. interns claiming misclassification as exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements. The case is based on a violation of the Fair Labor Standard Act and depends on the allegation that the plaintiffs performed the same tasks as nonexempt employees. Plaintiffs were uncompensated interns working in a variety of Warner Music Group Corp. departments (radio promotions, product development, artists and repertoire, etc.)


Unpaid intern class action lawsuits such as this are a growing trend in wage and hour litigation. Plaintiffs are unpaid interns simply suing for pay under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. Recent filings by unpaid interns have made allegations against a number of large corporations including: Hearst Corp., Fox Searchlight Inc., the “Charlie Rose” show, etc. In one instance, an intern who was paid a stipend filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the stipend he received was insufficient according to wage and labor laws. When the amount of the stipend was compared to the amount he would have earned for hours worked at federal minimum wage, the number fell short of minimum standards set up by the FLSA as well as New York state law.


Interns are historically underpaid (or not paid) and overworked. The current trend in unpaid intern class action lawsuits seems to indicate that this “accepted practice” may be going out of style.


For more information on identifying whether or not your internship violates wage and hour laws, contact an expert at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.