Public television shows often operate on a shoestring. According to Lucy Bickerton, the PBS “Charlie Rose” interview show was so cheap, it used interns like her to fill in for actual employees.
According to her lawsuit, filed in March, that violated New York’s wage-and-hour law.
Bickerton, who interned on the show in 2007, claims she worked 25 hours per week for no pay. Her suit alleges she and nine other interns shepherded guests, prepared press packets and cleaned the set after tapings, tasks she says constituted the work of an employee, not an intern.
According to the law, interns must receive training, not replace paid employees.
Bickerton’s attorneys are looking for other interns to come forward as part of a class action against the show.
Note: Both the federal and New York State departments of labor have been cracking down on the use of unpaid interns. Employers that can’t substantiate an internship’s educational component will have a tough time satisfying investigators. Employers should spell out exactly what duties an intern will perform before the internship begins. More important, they should detail what the intern will learn during the internship.