A ruling in Manhattan’s Federal District Court this summer that limits unpaid internships has proven to be a turning point in what’s typically been considered a norm in most industries. Film, fashion, journalism, sports, television and more recently music have seen a surge in former interns filing lawsuits for free labor not considered “educational.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs’s Bad Boy Entertainment is the latest to face a lawsuit from former intern Rashida Salaam, who worked for free for the music label from January to May 2012, TMZ exclusively reports. The plaintiff describes her internship duties as answering telephones, getting lunch and coffee for paid employees, making deliveries, gift-wrapping and decorating the office during holidays.
While such menial tasks hardly sound unusual for many former interns, the June ruling in favor of former Black Swan interns against Fox Searchlight Pictures was widely considered a watershed moment that would lead to an onslaught of similar cases against other employers. According to the ruling, all internship duties must be deemed “educational” and companies must pay interns if they benefit from the work. (Tell that to Conde Nast, which has reportedly stopped paying its interns even a token amount this summer despite a lawsuit filed against the publishing powerhouse in June.) Working for school credit is also no longer an acceptable policy as it has been at many companies. Earlier this month Warner Music, Columbia, Atlantic Records and Sony were all hit with class-action lawsuits.
The decision may change intern culture and practices for the better, but the ruling has prompted dozens of lawsuits like Salaam’s, and is a clear indication that there’s more to follow. So far, Bad Boy Entertainment has not released a statement.