In the third of three recent wage and hour class actions brought by unpaid interns against  media and entertainment companies (Wang v. The Hearst Corp. and Glatt and Footman v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.), a former unpaid intern for the “The Charlie Rose Show” has sued Charles Rose and his production company on behalf of all interns who were paid less than the minimum wage (Bickerton v. Rose et al.).  Lucy Bickerton, who worked as an unpaid “editorial intern” from June 2007 to August 2007 for about 25 hours per week, alleges that she and hundreds of others were misclassified as unpaid interns, denying them the right to earn a fair day’s wage, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and Social Security contributions.

Bickerton claims, central to the show’s lean production are the substantial number of unpaid interns who work on The Charlie Rose Show each day, but are paid no wages.  The show’s own website makes clear that “[i]nterns are highly involved with every aspect of running [the] daily television show.”  Interns perform background research from print and online sources to prepare Mr. Rose for guest interviews, escort guests through the studio and set, and break down the set and clean up the “green room,” the area where guests await their interviews, after each taping. Despite the significant work they perform, Charlie Rose interns are not compensated for any of their work, in violation of New York Labor Law.

The lawsuit also noted that unpaid internships have proliferated among many white-collar professions, including film, journalism, fashion and book publishing.

With the summer intern season right around the corner, Florida employers should be aware that unpaid internships must be for the benefit of the intern and the employer should “derive no immediate advantage” from the interns’ activities.  Per the U.S. Department of Labor, six criteria must be met in order for the internship to be lawfully unpaid:

(1)   The training is similar to that which would be given at a vocational school;

(2)   The training is for the benefit of the trainee;

(3)   The trainees do not displace regular employees, but closely supervised;

(4)   The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees;

(5)   The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of training; and

(6)   The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.