As summer approaches, many stations are preparing for the arrival of summer interns. While internship programs can earn stations EEO “credit” towards meeting the requirement that they conduct non-vacancy specific outreach efforts (the so-called “menu options” or “supplemental efforts” offered by the FCC to encourage stations to reach out to their communities to educate community residents as to what jobs are available at broadcast stations, and how people can train for and find out about such openings (see the article here for a link to a presentation that I did on all of the FCC’s EEO requirements), stations need to be cautious in setting up their internship programs for other reasons. In recent years, there have been a large number of lawsuits in over whether interns need to be paid for their work. While these lawsuits have spanned many industries, several involved broadcasters and other media companies. Thus, we felt the need for this cautionary note.
These disputes arise over wage and hour issues. In the most general terms, lawyers for former interns who were not paid have argued that the interns should have been paid as they functioned as employees of the station. In analyzing these issues, courts look at a number of issues, principally to determine if the internship was one that was meant more to benefit the intern and their education, or whether it was of a greater benefit it the station. Where the interns do the work that a paid employee would normally do, then there is an argument that the intern should themselves have been paid. What issues do the courts review?
Continue Reading Summer Internships – Good for FCC EEO Credit, But Be Careful of Wage and Hour Law Implications