It's summer and many college students in Texas are likely currently working at internships around the state and throughout the country. Billed as a way for college students to gain real work experience and college credit, most college students are advised to complete at least one unpaid internship. In recent months, however, the legality of such internships has come under fire as many interns have filed lawsuits asserting they were treated as employees rather than interns.
When most people think about an intern, tasks such as copying documents and getting coffee come to mind. In reality, however, many interns are completing work tasks and assignments that are on par with that of a full-time employee. Moreover, these interns are typically not getting paid or being paid very little to perform these work-related duties.
Recently, some interns sued companies for which they interned. Two students that interned for Fox Searchlight Pictures on the movie set of the film "Black Swan", recently won a lawsuit against the company who was found to be in violation of labor laws.
Additional labor lawsuits are currently pending against other companies which are accused of taking advantage of students by hiring unpaid interns to perform work duties typically assigned to full-time and paid employees. Many of the lawsuits stem from internships that took place within recent years. During this time companies, reeling from a poor economy, began the illegal practice of relying upon unpaid interns to perform work duties that would otherwise require a paid employee.
As more and more of these cases come to light it will be interesting to see how states like Texas address the fairness and legality of co-called unpaid internships. Texans who believe an employer is violating fair labor laws would be wise to contact an employment attorney to discuss their specific case.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, "More unpaid interns file lawsuits against employer for pay," Alana Semuels, June 14, 2013