Have you ever interned when you were in college? Did you feel you were taken advantage of while you were interning? Or, did you feel you were gathering valuable hands on experience and making connections that could lead to a possible job in the future? Would you ever consider suing the company you were interning at because they put you to work?

(Kuzma, ThinkStock)

That’s what’s happening at Clear Channel, where Intern Liane Arias has filed a suit in federal court. As Tom Taylor writes in his radio newsletter “NOW” :

Liane Arias files in federal court in New York, alleging that during her five-month internship in 2011, she was used by Clear Channel to perform various tasks in the promotion and marketing department that would’ve been carried out by paid employees, if she and other interns hadn’t been there, working for free. The jobs included “searching out current events and assembling reports, creating newspaper articles, going to promotional events and giveaways,” etc. Her attorneys also allege that during this period, Clear Channel “did not provide academic or vocational training,” so the claim is that they were unpaid labor who weren’t given instruction that would help them find a paying job. Not much value received, in other words. So Arias and her attorneys ask the court to rule that – all the way back to July 2008 – Clear Channel has improperly exploited the labor of interns. The putative class action asks Clear Channel to pay all past interns back wages, at the prevailing minimum wages, and to reimburse their legal costs. Courts have generally been making it harder for employees to file class action suits. But we’ve also seen a sharp rise in the number of complaints about unpaid interns, especially in New York. Not a bad time for companies to re-examine their policies about interns. Some stations require them to sign contracts acknowledging the terms under which they’re working, or at least to have the quid pro quo spelled out. In my opinion, something like this is could kill internships. You would think that if you’re there to learn the business, what better way than to perform the tasks. Would you rather just sit around and get the coffee? I’m not seeing where the company is saving money as they would hire another person just to perform those tasks. If they are, who cares, what’s important is that you get the experience to land a position when the time comes. Personally, when I was breaking in, I would gladly have worked for nothing just to learn. Comedians starting out, will often do free “guest” spots, to show the booker how good they are.

If this suit is successful, companies are going to be wary of what they let interns do, or even if they participate in the program at all. Then where will you go to have a true job experience? College often doesn't give students real world opportunities.

Do you think the intern has the right to sue Clear Channel?

Were you an intern? What tasks did they make you do? How did it turn out for you? Share your experiences in the comment section below.