Former unpaid intern sues Hearst Corp., seeks class action

Lawsuit claims Hearst violated wage and hour laws by not paying for full-time work

The unpaid intern rebellion is picking up steam.

A new lawsuit, similar to the class action that unpaid interns who worked on the film “Black Swan” filed in September 2011, popped up yesterday and reignited the discussion about fair pay for interns. This time it’s a former unpaid intern for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar who filed a lawsuit against its parent company, Hearst Corp., the New York Times reports.

The suit accuses Hearst of violating federal and state wage and hour laws by not paying the intern, Xuedan Wang, even though she frequently worked full time, sometimes even 55 hours a week. Wang and the plaintiffs firm representing her want to make the suit a class action to represent the many interns who work unpaid for Hearst publications, which include Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Seventeen.

Unpaid internships are increasingly becoming the primary way for young people with little to no work experience to get a foot in the door, especially in the media industry. But some experts say that these interns are taking the place of paid workers, and benefiting companies without being paid for their efforts.

The lawsuit against Hearst suggests the implications of not paying interns may go even further, as those who can’t afford to support themselves financially through unpaid internships may be denied opportunities in the future. It also alleges that Hearst was not following the Department of Labor’s guidelines on unpaid internships, which say that the internship must be comparable to an educational experience for the intern and that the intern should not displace regular employees or provide a tangible benefit to the employer.

“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,” the lawsuit reads.

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