Interns who have worked for the athletic department at a small liberal arts school on the East Coast are pursuing a class action lawsuit, claiming that they have been underpaid by the college for their efforts.
The lead plaintiff says that he complained to top officials at the school in the human resources department about the perceived mistreatment of the interns.
Internships typically must be rewarded with either pay or school credit and are not supposed to have the same job duties as regular full time employees, although it has become clear in recent years that not all organizations who hire interns treat them appropriately. In this case, the college allegedly treated the interns the exact same way that full time, paid employees were treated, but paid them much less.
The lead plaintiff says that even through positions as an assistant football coach, a special teams coordinator, and an assistant women’s basketball coach, his pay only increased slightly over the course of two years. At times when he was working over 100 hours per week during a peak part of the season, his modest stipend worked out to only $2.60 per hour, much less than the federal minimum wage.
Interestingly, the only defendant in this case is the college itself. The plaintiff has not pursued a claim against any of the individuals in human resources or on the coaching staff. Information in the complaint indicates that both human resources and the head coach acknowledged the problem, and that the coach was denied additional funding from the college to pay employees more.
All employees deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. This means that companies who hire interns must comply with relevant labor laws that prevent exploitation of students who are looking to get a leg up in their careers.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Interns Sue Hamilton College in Class Action,” Marlene Kennedy, Dec. 27, 2012.