According to the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL), unpaid internships in private for-profit businesses are illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or the Act) except for very narrow circumstances. Consistent with the WHD's position, civil litigation against employers providing unpaid internships has significantly increased via the private right of action contained in the statute. Over twenty lawsuits have been filed by unpaid interns alleging violations of federal and state minimum wage laws. A major force behind these new lawsuits is Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., a June 2013 decision from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, holding that two unpaid interns were employees under the protection of the FLSA. Marking the first victory for unpaid interns in wage and hour litigation, the decision is a cautionary symbol to employers that shows the significant liability they might incur as a result of internship programs, and the potential for plaintiff's lawyers who can obtain certification of collective actions.
Perniciaro, Chris J.
"An Emerging Liability: Managing FLSA Exposure from Internship Programs in the Private Sector,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 65:
4, Article 18.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol65/iss4/18