Unpaid Intern Lawsuit Filed by Former Howard Stern Intern Against XMSR
Howard Stern apparently does not read the newspapers. Or, perhaps he has an unpaid intern in New York read the paper for him, and then provide a summary along with his breakfast order. If that’s the case, the summaries were incomplete and he should get another intern to work up to nine hours a day for no pay. Any takers?
Unpaid intern lawsuits have been all over the news lately, and yet some arrogant employers continue to exploit their workers and then seem surprised when it comes time to pay the piper. Mr. Stern, and his employer, XM Sirius Radio, is the latest example. According to a lawsuit filed this week in the Southern District of New York by brave plaintiff Melissa Tierney, the original Shock Jock had his interns obtain breakfast orders, deliver food, run errands and perform other menial tasks. Clearly, the internship program was designed not for the benefit of the interns but for the benefit of Howard Stern, who would have otherwise hired paid staff to be his lackeys.
The interesting thing is that it’s so easy to design a legal internship program. It takes a little effort and money on the employer’s behalf, but the free labor more than makes up for the investment. The golden rule of a compliant internship program is that it should put the interns’ welfare above corporate profits. Specifically, a legal internship program must:
- Include an educational component: Have the interns gather in the break room at the start or end of every day and talk about what they learned and what their goals are. Invite a guest speaker a few times a month.
- Be closely supervised: There is no magic formula, but a 1:3 supervisor-to-intern ratio is a good rule of thumb.
- Provide industry-related tasks: Everyone has to move boxes or send faxes at one time or another. But if you have a group of interns at a radio station, they should spend most of their time learning about the radio business.
There is a significant chance that the internship program you’re in bears little or no resemblance to this model. The good news is that you don’t have to take the exploitation lying down: you can get started today on your lawsuit for back wages and other damages.