This blog has recently discussed unpaid interns arguing that they should be paid interns. Employees claiming that their employers have misclassified them in order to avoid paying the proper overtime compensation is another frequent topic of discussion. What has yet to be discussed is unpaid interns who argue they should have been classified as employees. Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between the duties and responsibilities of an intern compared to those of an employee.
Three former interns of Gawker Media LLC have filed a class action lawsuit against the company for allegedly misclassifying them as interns when, in fact, they should have been paid employees. The plaintiffs are Aulistar Mark, Hanchen Lu, and Andrew Hudson. They allege that Gawker violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York state law when the company categorized them as unpaid interns rather than employees. According to the lawsuit, unpaid interns, such as the plaintiffs, provide content and material which is used by the company. This is an important distinction in the law when determining whether a worker should be classified as an intern or an employee.
The lawsuit alleges that the interns worked at least 15 hours per week for Gawker without pay. The plaintiffs allegedly performed a variety of duties including researching and writing stories for Gawker’s websites. Each intern allegedly posted more than 20 assignments each day.
The lawsuit has been brought on behalf of all current and former interns working for Gawker Media for three years before the filing of the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that the interns should have been paid for the time they spent writing and editing articles, promoting their content through social media, and monitoring Gawker forums. Mark alleges that he worked for Gawker in its New York City location from May 2010 to August 2010. Lu and Hudson both worked remotely for the company in 2010 and 2008, respectively. Allegedly none of the plaintiffs were ever compensated for any of the work that they performed.
The Fair Labor Standards Act allows for companies to use unpaid interns as long as they follow six guidelines as laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor. The lawsuit alleges that Gawker violated two of these guidelines: 1) Interns cannot replace regular employees, and 2) In order for a person to be classified as an intern, the worker must receive training from the employer. The employer must also not benefit inordinately from the work the intern performs.
If some interns were doing their jobs remotely, it is safe to assume that they were not receiving training from Gawker. Likewise, if their work was being used by the company to bring in revenue, then Gawker most definitely benefited to an inordinate degree from the unpaid work these interns performed.
The lawsuit also alleges that Gawker failed to keep track of the interns’ worked hours and denied them additional benefits such as unemployment insurance and Social Security contributions. The lawsuit is seeking compensation for those hours worked, liquidated and statutory damages, pre-judgmental and post-judgmental interest, attorneys’ fees, as well as other punitive damages.
This has been a hot issue for many workers lately. With the economy continuing to stall, many people have turned to internships, even unpaid ones, in the hope that it will provide them with the experience and connections they need to acquire a paying job. However, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 37 percent of 2012 graduates who worked unpaid internships were offered jobs as a result of that internship. By contrast, 60 percent of graduates who worked paid internships were offered jobs.
The Illinois overtime attorneys and Chicago FLSA attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against Newspapers, Magazines, Media Companies, Hotels, Restaurants, Retail Stores and Chains, Banks and real-estate companies for misclassifying appraisers or loan officers as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Peoria and Rock Island. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, McHenry Kane and Cook Counties.
Our North Chicago and West Chicago overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.