Labor: Try mediation for unpaid intern lawsuits

Mediation allows the parties to settle amicably, without damaging either’s reputation

It’s summer vacation for college students. That used to be their time to go to the beach, see friends and make a few bucks. Not anymore. The beach and friends part may still be happening, but the availability of summer jobs is not what it used to be. At least jobs that pay. Instead, college students and even graduates are pursuing the new-normal job: an internship that pays in experience, possible connections and resume building, but not in dollars.

Employers beware. Interns are beginning to demand compensation for performing the same work as paid employees, many of whom they displace for free. Many have filed lawsuits. And they are winning. Two interns who worked on Fox Searchlight’s film “Black Swan” claimed the company’s unpaid internship program violated federal minimum wage and overtime laws. They brought a class action lawsuit against Fox Entertainment Group. In June, a federal judge in New York ruled that Fox should have paid the interns because they essentially were regular employees. The judge also allowed the case to proceed as a class. Other intern lawsuits are now pending around the country against Warner Music Group, Hearst Magazines, Conde Nast, Elite Model Management and others.

Contributing Author

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Terry Friedman

Hon. Terry B. Friedman, a retired Los Angeles Superior Court judge, is a mediator, arbitrator and discovery referee with JAMS, based in Santa Monica. He...

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