All posts tagged 'Fair Pay Campaign'
Up-to-date information on wage-hour principles and developments from
Fisher & Phillips attorneys who focus their practices on these matters.

Campus "Unpaid Intern" Opposition Growing

March 24, 2014 04:07
by John E. Thompson

We have already reported that a group calling itself the "Fair Pay Campaign" aims to pressure colleges and universities not to facilitate unpaid internships or even post notices about them.  This initiative appears to be gaining momentum.

Companies and other organizations thinking about participating in internships sponsored by educational institutions will be wise to consider what impact this "Fair Pay Campaign" might have upon the potential for intern-related wage disputes.

A Glimpse Into The Mindset

The intentions and attitudes of this initiative's proponents are exemplified by a recent Fair Pay recruiting e-mail:

Hey _______ –

Let me introduce myself.

My name is Christina Isnardi and I'm a senior at New York University.  Last year, I worked with the Fair Pay Campaign to organize a campaign against unpaid internships on my campus.  We organised online and offline, bringing together over 1000 students and supporters to demand that NYU’s Career Center stop posting ads for illegal unpaid internships.

And here's the crazy thing:  We won.

As a result of our campaign, NYU made unprecedented changes to their internship policy, and more than doubled the number of paid internship postings.  They've tightened up their posting criteria, and they're even providing interns with advice about their rights in the workplace.  We made national headlines and now other colleges are following suit, but we're not done yet.

We're going to bring our fight to campuses across America, but we can't do it without you.  Click here to sign up to organise a campaign in your community.

The Fair Pay Campaign team will work with you every step of the way.  They'll give you resources, training, and advice, including cutting-edge digital organising tools. They'll help you to craft a grassroots campaign – online and offline – that will make an impact in the fight against unpaid internships.

Make a change at your college.  Sign up to organise and fight back.

Too many of us are having doors slammed in our face if we can't afford to work for free.  Too many of us aren't getting the pay we've earned, because employers still think interns are just employees that they don't have to pay.

But it doesn't have to be like this, and with your help, it won't be for much longer.

In Solidarity,


P.S.  We all deserve fair pay for a fair shot at our dreams.  Fight with us, and help make it happen.

The Bottom Line

It is entirely possible that the Campaign's efforts to "bring [the] fight to campuses across America" will:

♦       Significantly complicate the process of arranging internships or even communicating with candidates about them;

♦       Provoke a further rise in the number of wage-hour complaints brought by unpaid interns under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the analogous laws of other jurisdictions; and

♦       Spill-over to include allegations that individuals who were involved in "paid" internships were nevertheless not paid amounts that complied with wage-hour laws.

And to the extent that students decide to take the advice offered by the New York Times awhile back, it is conceivable that at least some such claims will be sparked by individuals who participated in the internships knowing that they would seek back wages allegedly due after the relationship's conclusion.

Remember that even a successful defense against claims by one or more interns will be expensive, disruptive, and distracting.


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School-Facilitated Internships: No Worries, Right?

February 28, 2014 08:16
by John E. Thompson

We have long warned that one should not simply assume that an internship associated with or sponsored by an educational institution falls outside of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's requirements.  Our caution includes situations in which the intern receives academic credit for the time so spent.

Now, More Heat On Academia

Not surprisingly, the rash of intern lawsuits and intern-related publicity has now provoked a number of "pay your interns" campaigns and on-campus initiatives directed at schools and universities.  The news site ProPublica is writing extensively about this and has undertaken to investigate "schools' role in the issue" (among other things).

Academic institutions are of course reacting to these developments and pressures.  Reports suggest that few if any of them will be prepared to withdraw from the facilitation of unpaid internships just yet.  However, many are implementing other measures that organizations contemplating offering internships to students should carefully review and evaluate.

For example, organizations that are considering posting, otherwise publicizing, or collaborating on internship opportunities at such an institution should not be surprised to find that its administration will require that they confirm or even affirmatively agree to comply with various "guidelines" and specific commitments.  Depending upon the details, it is conceivable that doing so might, as illustrations, (i) create contracts or legally-enforceable undertakings of another kind even aside from FLSA requirements, or (ii) be offered in connection with a later FLSA claim as alleged evidence of a knowing violation.  Anyone who is deciding whether to confirm or accept such terms should thoroughly consider the ramifications of doing so.

Indications also are that many schools will be encouraging paid internships.  And it is foreseeable that at least some schools will be making a more hands-on effort to monitor and supervise internships in an ongoing way.

Remember The Basics

Even if an internship is arranged through or with the involvement of a school, the principal FLSA issue is still whether the person is or is not an "employee" who is subject to that law's requirements.  The answer is not going to be controlled by what the intern, the internship provider, and/or an educational institution might have thought or even agreed to on this score.

Instead, the determination has more to do with whether the actual facts and circumstances clearly demonstrate that the relationship is one of non-employment that is genuinely undertaken and carried out for the purpose of generalized learning, education, and training that imparts to the intern significant knowledge of a broadly-applicable kind.  Boiled down to essentials, this is what the U.S. Labor Department's statements on the subject are aimed at evaluating.

Bear in mind also that:

♦   Whatever USDOL or an educational institution might think about whether an intern is an FLSA "employee", individuals are free to file their own FLSA lawsuits to resolve the question.

♦   States and other jurisdictions can take their own positions regarding internship status under their particular wage-hour laws, positions that might tend to favor a finding of "employment" under those laws.

♦   Some of the claims being made involve "paid" interns who allege that they were "employees" whose pay did not meet the requirements of all applicable laws.  So simply paying an intern something (like a small stipend) does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of a later government investigation or court fight.

The Bottom Line

There is no inherent protection against claims or liability arising out of an internship just because the relationship was undertaken in conjunction with an educational institution and/or involved academic credit.


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Group Advocates Pay For White House Interns

August 30, 2013 02:58
by John E. Thompson

The unpaid-interns ruckus continues to unfold, this time in a way that entangles President Obama.

As we observed in March 2012, an unpaid White House intern might conclude that he or she is "engaged in the operations of the employer or . . .  performing productive work," activities which U.S. Labor Department Fact Sheet #71 says would be viewed as federal Fair Labor Standards Act employment where a business is concerned.  Although a federal law says that the rights and protections of the FLSA apply to "covered employees" in presidential offices, the drafters expressly excluded interns.

But now a movement referring to itself as the "Fair Pay Campaign" has launched a petition "call[ing] on the White House to pay the interns it employs an hourly wage."  The group's approach appears to be to cajole and shame President Obama into doing so, including by asserting that not paying the interns would be hypocritical in light of his call for an increase in the FLSA's minimum-wage rate.  A CNNMoney report suggests that spotlighting the White House is part of a soon-to-be-undertaken broader effort aimed at, as the group's website puts it, "fighting to end Unpaid Internships."

This heightened publicity takes place against the backdrop of a continued onslaught of lawsuits under the FLSA and/or state laws brought by unpaid or allegedly underpaid interns.  We have reported on some of them already (most recently here), but in just the last couple of months others have been filed against Bad Boy Entertainment, Columbia Recordings Corp. (along with Sony Corporation and Sony Music Holdings), and NBC Universal.  This escalation is probably attributable in no small part to trolling by attorneys who are developing a specialty in such matters.

We are even more inclined to suspect that, by next spring, informed employers will be thinking long and hard about whether to offer any internships, whether unpaid or paid.  Paging through comments entered by some Fair Pay petition signers will make for interesting reading in this connection.

One may reasonably question whether efforts by Fair Pay and others will eventually have amounted to "fighting to end" many or even most internships of every kind.


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