In what could be the first class action in the newly emerging area of unpaid intern rights, a class has been certified in the United States. Eric Glatt, et al., v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. is brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, New York Labor Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law.
In Ontario, the term “internship” is not used in employment legislation. For guidance on the issue, the Ministry of Labour fact sheet states that unpaid work violates the Employment Standards Act.
“The fact that you are called an ‘intern’ does not determine whether or not you are entitled to the protections of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), including the minimum wage,” the fact sheet states.
In addition to exceptions for college and university training programs, there are few other times in which an “intern” may not be paid. To qualify for exclusion, an internship must meet all these criteria:
- The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school.
- The training is for the benefit of the intern.
- The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern.
- The training doesn’t take someone else’s job.
- Your employer isn’t promising you a job at the end of your training.
- You have been told that you will not be paid for your time.
Despite the Fact Sheet, very few cases are reported, of interns taking an employer to court for unpaid internship wages. A recent study found that unpaid “internships” account for nearly half of all work in the GTA.
Employment lawyer Andrew Langille calls unpaid internships an “epidemic.”
For assistance, contact the Employment Standards Information Centre, toll-free: 1-800-531-5551.
The Canadian Intern Association provides extensive coverage of the issue of unpaid internships. In particular, the online site follows the efforts of MP Scott Brison in Parliament.
iPolitics, a political affairs publication for policy nerds, keeps watch over internship issues.
Canadian Lawyer Magazine has a piece on unpaid internships in law offices.