A woman who worked as an unpaid intern for Harper's Bazaar has filed suit against the company for violations of federal and state wage and hour laws. The woman claims that she is entitled to back wages and overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The legal issue for interns, as explained by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, is whether the unpaid intern is doing the work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee. If the employer would have had to hire additional employees or add hours to current employees to complete the work, then the intern is entitled to compensation for the hours and overtime worked.
"Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work," said the attorney for the intern to a blogger for the New York Times. "The practice of classifying employees as 'interns' to avoid paying wages runs afoul of federal and state wage and hour laws."
Harper's Bazaar and its parent company Hearst Corp. have said that they will "vigorously defend" these wage and hour claims filed by unpaid interns. A spokesman said that he believes that the companies have done nothing wrong in hiring hundreds of unpaid interns each year.
Source: ABA Journal, "Unpaid Intern Sues Harper's Bazaar Publisher for Wages and Overtime, Seeks Class Action Status," Martha Neil, 2/3/2012