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Interns face setback in New York wage, hour lawsuit

In a competitive job market, there are literally thousands of qualified individuals looking for work -- many of whom are in the same field. This is especially true in a place like New York. As newly minted college graduates look to gain professional experience, they may have to take an unpaid internship in order to build a resume that competes with other job applicants.

Although an internship can be a great learning experience for young and eager professionals, these unpaid positions can also create a variety wage issues. As companies look to closely manage their bottom lines, they may hire unpaid interns to do much of the work they would pay others for.

A group of interns at a New York magazine publisher ran into this very problem. Many of them worked just as many hours as full-time employees and completed very similar tasks. However, they weren't being paid anything for their work. As such, they tried to file a class-action suit under the terms of federal labor laws.

Recently, a judge refused to certify the class formed by the publishing interns. According to the judge, the group didn't meet the definition of a class. If the interns had been certified, they may have been able to tackle a common legal issue together. Oftentimes, class-action suits find more success than individual claims, so observers consider this to be a setback for these eager workers.

In this case, it's clear that the interns have worked hard and want to do so in the future. However, they feel that they should be compensated for the work they're doing, which becomes especially clear when looking at the nature of the work they are expected to do. The hope is that these young professionals are able to find a way forward and be adequately compensated for their work.

Source: ABC News, "Unpaid Summer Interns Denied Class Status By Judge," Alan Farnham, May 16, 2013

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