Unpaid internships can be a burden for the typical “broke college student” living off of Ramen noodles and peanut butter. For formerly homeless intern Kyle Grant, his unpaid internship with Warner Music Group proved to be no different and has led to a class action lawsuit against the company.
Grant, now 23, commuted to his unpaid internship with WMG from a homeless shelter in the Bronx in hopes of standing out as a star intern in 2012. What happened instead was eight months of alleged menial office tasks and personal errands for paid employees.
“As an intern I wanted to do whatever I could to make a name, to at least stand out to somebody,” Grant told Newsweek. “That’s not what happened. It was just a routine of getting things.”
According to Newsweek, Grant grabbed coffee, lunch and dry cleaning for the company’s employees and top executives. Tasks, according to Grant, that didn’t deal with radio production.
Interns like Grant aren’t often aware of the six criteria that unpaid internships must follow in order to be in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
These criteria include the point that “the internship experience is for the benefit of the intern."
After working longer-than-40-hour weeks, watching his GPA fall and dealing with trying to get to the homeless shelter before curfew every day, Grant was fired.
“It was like, OK, I’m not getting paid here, I’m here more than freaking paid employees. When I say I have to be somewhere Monday because they’re going to cut off the food stamps benefits I get, you can’t tell me my job is in jeopardy. Which kind of made me fear my job security even more. Which kind of made me want to be there even more hours, because it was like, OK, I called out last week, let me do that much more,” said Grant.
Grant was allegedly fired for taking too much time for lunch.
He later sued for wage violations, and in May, the suit became class-action allowing for the nearly 3,000 former interns of WMG to sue the company if necessary.
In response, WMG said, “given that this is a pending matter, we will let our legal filings speak for themselves.”
Controversy surrounding unpaid internships has led to reform across the country.
In April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill extending sexual harassment protections to unpaid interns.
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(Photo: Warner Music Group)