Outten & Golden -- it brought you November's Black Swan intern suit, and now it's bringing you a little something more. The firm is representing a former unpaid intern at Hearst Corporation's Harper's Bazaar.
That intern, Xuedan Wang, accuses the company of violating wage and labor laws by not paying her to work full time. She is also seeking class action status with hopes of adding unpaid interns at other Hearst publications, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Seventeen.
Unpaid interns are the new entry-level employee, according to the New York Times. College students are willing to work for free just to get a foot in the door. But as the Hearst unpaid intern suit asserts, corporations often fail to follow the Department of Labor's guidelines on unpaid internships.
Unpaid interns often work full time and take on the role of an employee. Many gain little education experience, which is an essential component under the guidelines.
Ms. Wang asserts that this was her experience at Harper's Bazaar. She often worked 55 hours a week coordinating pickups and deliveries of fashion samples, explains the Times. She was in charge of other interns, and maintained records for corporate expense reports. There was no training involved.
Hearst says Ms. Wang and other unpaid interns received academic credit for such work. But is that enough to meet the educational component of the DOL guidelines? Or does the law require something more?
If the Hearst unpaid intern suit goes to trial, we may find out. Until then, it might be wise to think about the answer carefully.