The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships

David C. Yamada

Suffolk University Law School

July 27, 2016

Northeastern University Law Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 357 (2016)
Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 13-34

Until very recently, the legal implications of unpaid internships provided by American employers have been something of a sleeping giant, especially on the question of whether interns fall under wage and hour protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state equivalents. This began to change in 2013, when, in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., a U.S. federal district court held that two unpaid interns who worked on the production of the movies “Black Swan” and “500 Days of Summer” were owed back pay under federal and state wage and hour laws. Although the decision would be vacated and remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2015, the door to challenging unpaid internships remains open, thanks in part to this litigation.

This Article examines and analyzes the latest legal developments concerning internships and the growth of the intern rights movement. It serves as an update to a 2002 article I wrote on the employment rights of interns, David C. Yamada, The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns, 35 Conn. L. Rev. 215 (2002). Now that the legal implications of unpaid internships have transcended mostly academic commentary, the underlying legal and policy issues are sharpening at the point of application. Accordingly, Part I will examine the recent legal developments concerning internships, consider the evolving policy issues, and suggest solutions where applicable.

In addition, the intern rights movement has emerged to challenge the widespread practice of unpaid internships and the overall status of interns in today’s labor market. Thus, Part II will examine the emergence of a movement that has both fueled legal challenges to unpaid internships and engaged in organizing activities and social media outreach surrounding internship practices and the intern economy.

This article grew out of my presentation at the March 2013 Northeastern University Law Journal symposium on employee misclassification. By mutual agreement with the journal editors, we postponed publication of the article to allow for further resolution of the Glatt litigation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41

Keywords: Interns, unpaid internships, minimum wage, labor standards, wage and hour laws, Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII, sexual harassment, colleges and universities, higher education

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Date posted: October 11, 2013 ; Last revised: July 29, 2016

Suggested Citation

Yamada, David C., The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships (July 27, 2016). Northeastern University Law Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 357 (2016); Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 13-34. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2338646

Contact Information

David C. Yamada (Contact Author)
Suffolk University Law School ( email )
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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