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The Unpaid Intern and the Music Industry

Published June 18, 2018 by Employment and Consumer Law Group
The Unpaid Intern and the Music Industry

Nashville is undoubtedly the center of the country music industry universe. It has been known as “Music City” since the early 1950s. Nashville citizens take great pride in the number of artists who live and work among us. However, the sheer number of people looking to work in this industry sometimes lead to labor abuses.

Recently, the problem of sexual harassment of both those trying to break into the industry and established stars has made headlines. Some of country music’s biggest stars have also spoken out about harassment they have faced, including Taylor Swift.

Another issue not be as widely reported involves the use of “unpaid interns” to perform a wide variety of tasks. Recently a lawsuit was filed by a former employee of John and Martina McBride claiming he was fired for reporting to the Department of Labor unpaid interns were being used by the McBride’s recording company to perform a variety of tasks which were not education related.

According to the lawsuit, the interns had to perform tasks such as cleaning the bathrooms, tearing down equipment, doing the grocery shopping for their family, and even sending to the McBride home in the middle of the night to ensure an intruder wasn’t present. Given the debts students have because of student loans, etc.- these unpaid internships are often taken at the student’s detriment.

DebtSometimes it is OK for a company to hire and use unpaid interns. Intern’s job duties must be geared toward their education. Cleaning bathrooms, grocery shopping, and providing home security are not the type of job duties unpaid interns should perform. The number of hours these unpaid interns are required to work sometimes totals 60-80 hours per week.

The Department of Labor states the following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded; Definitely, the employer don’t have the right to intimidate anyone when exercising their rights.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.

If all of the factors are not met, the intern must be paid at least minimum wage and the proper overtime rate for hours over 40 in their standard workweek.

Our firm has sued on behalf of unpaid interns in the past. If you feel like you are owed money for work you performed as an “unpaid intern” please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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