Interns suing employers around the country following Black Swan ruling

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Interns around the country are taking employers to court who do not pay them at least minimum wage, a little over a month after a federal ruling broke new ground on the legal requirements businesses have for training their interns. 

According to an online ProPublica database, a website that supports investigative journalism, there are currently 14 lawsuits around the country concerning the responsibilities employers have for internships. Three of those lawsuits have been filed since last month, when a federal judge in New York found that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the law when it did not pay two interns who worked on the production of the Oscar-winning film “Black Swan.” 

The judge said employers must follow Department of Labor guidelines and either pay interns for their work or directly supervise their education. In addition, the judge said employers should receive “no immediate advantage” from intern labor. The case still only applies to New York and could be overturned on appeal. 

Businesses being sued range from intern-heavy employers, including the media website Gawker, to public relations and fashions firms, and even two universities. The two higher education suits concern a university athletic division at Hamilton College, New York, and a separate anesthesia internship at Wolford College, Florida. 

The rulings could significantly reshape the field of work for internships, which are quickly becoming a necessary stepping-stone for entry into the post-graduate workforce. According to a New York Times article published last week, less than half of current college graduates currently work in jobs that require a degree.