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The End of an (Intern) Era

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A couple of weeks back on my radio show, I covered the case of the interns v. Charlie Rose.

I mentioned at the time that my law firm defends employers against class actions seeking overtime wages, and that I see and hear a lot about this exploding area of the plaintiffs’ cases against employers seeking back pay.  These cases though concern workers who have been paid but assert that they ought to have been paid more. 

Reports accumulate every day of new causes of actions against empoloyers, especially in the Golden State. (Take the “don and doff” suits as one example.)

Now comes Intern Justice, and every entertainment concern in Hollywood and every media operation across the country is taking in a sharp short breath.  A story on the organization and their argument is here.

I have always made it a practice to pay my interns.  Not much, but enough that they could pay for their gas and their food.  Minimum wage work is, after all, minimum wage work and they are there for the experience of working on a nationally-syndicated radio talk show.

My law firm doesn’t use interns.

But they are ubiquitous in the news and movie business, or at least used to be.

Wage and hour class action litigation is enormously expensive to defend.  The risk of incurring those costs is not worth the benefit of many hands to carry coffee and escort guests.  The end of an era is upon us.

If the obvious solution –pay interns a minimum wage is adopted– then the change should be accompanied by rules on salary v. hourly rates, avoiding (or paying overtime), and general expectations of performance, and those rules scrupulously adhered to.


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