A class of former interns that worked for the Charlie Rose Show, a TV show that appears on PBS, have filed a class action lawsuit against Charlie Rose and the company that produces his show. The interns allege that their internships involved work that employees, not interns, are supposed to perform. In return for their work, they received no pay.
It is clearly illegal not to pay employees wages since there are federal and state minimum wage laws. There is an exception to the minimum wage requirements for interns but that exception is narrow. In order for an employer to avoid an obligation to pay interns, several criteria must be met. Those criteria, under federal law, are as follows:
1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If you have worked an unpaid internship and the employer did not comply with the rules above, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to determine whether your rights have been violated.