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Former BUILD interns file suit for unpaid wages

A group of Brooklyn residents filed suit in a federal court last week seeking unpaid wages and damages from multiple companies who have been accused of failing to pay them for work they performed, as well as breaking promises of employment.

The plaintiffs apparently took part in a pre-apprentice training program, which was created as part of a community benefits agreement which promised to create local in order to gain support from residents and politicians for the Atlantic Yards Project. For our readers who are unfamiliar with the Atlantic Yards Project, it is a development project involving 16 high-rise buildings in Prospect Heights, which is next to Downtown Brooklyn.

Among those named as defendants in the suit are Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC, Forest City Ratner Companies LLC, and Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). The plaintiff's, apparently all former BUILD members, claim they worked for two months on a private residence renovation project in Staten Island, for which they received little or no training or compensation.

The plaintiffs reportedly entered the internship program on promises of guaranteed union jobs and continued working after being informed they would not receive union membership if they stopped their work.

According to BUILD, the plaintiffs signed an agreement indicating they would not receive pay for the work or be guaranteed union membership. But according to the plaintiffs' attorneys, signing the agreement does not mean the interns were not entitled to pay for the work they performed.

The defendants reportedly have 21 days to answer the complaint.

This story is a bit like a previous one we posted on which involved two former interns who worked for Fox Searchlight Pictures on the film "Black Swan." Those interns filed a federal class action suit claiming the company violated labor laws by hiring unpaid interns.

With economy being the way it is, it shouldn't be that surprising to be seeing these kinds of lawsuits. It will be interesting to see how the courts handle them.

Source: New York Times, "Brooklyn Residents File Lawsuit to Recover Unpaid Wages," Chester Soria and Martin Leung, November 16, 2011.

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