Ramon E. Rivera
December 11, 2013
Hiring unpaid interns is a growing legal concern for many New Jersey employers. This past year, interns of several well-known companies, including Fox Entertainment Group and Conde Naste, filed class-action lawsuits
alleging that they should have been properly classified as employees, entitling them to minimum wage and overtime time pay.
As we have previously discussed, internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the employer satisfies a six-factor test for unpaid interns required by the Department of Labor. If all of the criteria are satisfied, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the statute’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.
Because they are not considered employees under the law, unpaid interns are also not protected by a number of other state and federal employment laws. However, legislation currently under consideration by the New Jersey legislature would increase the legal protections available under state law.
The bill, S-3064
, would amend the Law Against Discrimination, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and the Worker Freedom From Employer Intimidation Act to include unpaid interns
. Accordingly, employers could be held liable for harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and retaliation against this new class of workers.
Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, introduced the law in response to a New York employment lawsuit in which a harassment claim was dismissed because the plaintiff was an unpaid intern. Gill maintains that the amendments are needed to reflect the current workplace in which many recent college graduate are willing to accept unpaid positions in order to get a foot in the door.
We will be closely tracking the status of the legislation and will provide updates as they become available.
If you have any questions about the proposed changes to New Jersey’s employment laws or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me, Ramon Rivera, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.