Employer’s Requirement That Unpaid Interns Receive College Credit Was Not an Unlawful Deduction from Wages Under New York Labor Law
Wang v. Hearst Corp., 12-CV-0793 (HB) (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 9, 2013): Like many corporations, Hearst Corporation required that its unpaid interns receive college credit as a condition of their internship. In Wang, the plaintiff alleged on behalf of herself and a class that Hearst, among other things, took an unlawful deduction from wages, in violation of Section 193 of the New York Labor Law, by mandating that its interns receive college credit. Section 193 prohibits deductions from wages except in accordance with law or as authorized in writing and for the benefit of the employee. The court granted Hearst’s motion for judgment on the pleadings seeking to dismiss the unlawful deductions claim and held that the plaintiff “did not receive any payment—or anything even arguably close—that could constitute ‘wages,’” and therefore she could not prevail on an action alleging unlawful deductions from wages under Section 193. While intern misclassification claims have increased recently, the Wang decision at least clarifies that unpaid interns cannot bring an unlawful deductions claim under New York law premised on the requirement that they receive college credit for their internship. New York employers should still note that the classification of interns is a developing area of the law, and should ensure that their unpaid internship programs meet the criteria set forth by the New York State Department of Labor in its December 21, 2010 opinion letter.
Note: This article was published in the January 2013 issue of the New York eAuthority.