Unpaid Intern Sued Sony and Awarded £4,600

Chris Jarvis worked from 9:30 until 6pm for three months at Sony Computer Entertainment in Cambridge last year, commuting three hours a day from his home in Milton Keynes. According to Jarvis, he was suppose to work under a staff member but instead was given the job of testing the company’s games’ 3D artwork. According to The Times, Jarvis said he informed his employers that because of his work he was entitled to the national minimum wage:

I thought they would say they had made an honest mistake. If they got someone in to do the job it would have cost £100 a day. But they said that I was a volunteer so not entitled to any pay.

He reported Sony to HM Revenue and Customs and sued for unpaid wages but weeks before the tribunal, Sony settled for £4,600. The company asked him to sign a gagging order, which he declined. Sony argued that Jarvis was a volunteer so they were not required to pay him. However, Jasmine Patel, who helped him with his case stated:

If someone is working set hours … and is adding value to the company so that if they were not doing the task someone else would have to be paid to do it, then it is more likely they will be defined as a worker in law, entitled to be paid. Voluntary workers can only be employed unpaid by a charity, a voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or a statutory body. You can be a volunteer worker at a commercial company, but you still qualify for the minimum wage.

Join the Discussion

  • man I HATE these kinds of news.
    It just puts fear in your heart that many companies and even big companies are crooks who will swindle their way to screw people up.

    I’m so glad Jarvis got his reward, freaking bastard Sony. First removing Other OS, now this, what next? removing Share function on PS4? I would be f***ng p*ss off if I had to travel 1-2hr a day to work, cost of petrol, doing long hours for 2 months and in the end I’m not getting paid.

    God brough Justice to Jarvis.
    freaking sony >:/

    • Allisa James

      Yeah Sony really took advantage of Jarvis. He thought he would actually get an internship, then is forced to do paid work (with horribly long hours) without the pay.

      Glad he managed to get his compensation (and more) and that he refused to sign the Gagging Order.

      • NL37

        If only Yoshida could be everywhere, he wouldnt let this happen.
        im sure their are heaps of nice people at sony, but this got on the business side of things, and we all know business is harsh.
        Wonder what hes doing now and if he can find work after this.

        • Allisa James

          Hopefully so. And unfortunately a lot of corporations do this same tactic of using interns in place of paid workers. It’s really sad.

    • Ryan Meitzler

      Many good points – Sony is not the only one to blame though. It’s just the unfortunate situation that many companies and industries have resorted to, especially in the entertainment industry, and that many people have to also resort to just to even have a chance at getting a foot in the door or getting work experience through unpaid internships (myself included).

      It’s unfortunately a detriment to both sides with “unpaid internships” being a bit abused during the last few years as replacements for employed work, but glad to see that at least some positives came out of it in the end for Jarvis – there’s a difference between legitimately working to earn experience and be instructed in a field, and being taken advantage of and used as a free replacement for a salaried position.

      • Allisa James

        Well said Ryan! 🙂

      • DarthDiggler

        It sounds to me like this person signed up for an unpaid internship.

        “Sony argued that Jarvis was a volunteer so they were not required to pay him.”

        Internships can be highly valuable to the person involved much more than pay. This may come as a surprise to some within the context of today’s instant gratification and “what’s in it for me” attitudes. We are talking about situations where very inexperienced people can be in situations where they get to learn directly from the people who make it happen. There is value there beyond money if the internship is managed properly.

        It all really depends on the circumstances and unfortunately it doesn’t appear this article has provided many details (if they are available). Perhaps the game testing was just a means to gauge the intern for better placement (purely my speculation for the sake of argument). The kind of feedback one gives about a game is very telling of their capabilities and talents.

        I don’t see anything wrong with this. If you want a job you bring a set of capabilities to a company and become employed (thus bringing said value to company). If you don’t have those capabilities and you agree to work in an internship program then you are still getting value for your time it is just not in the form of income.

        If they had some clear program established that included games testing it would be kind of hard to argue that this is justified. Sony likely just paid the money just to make it go away. If there was no program established then clearly they took advantage of him. We don’t really have enough of the facts here to say either way.

        • Eximius Sorel

          I’m sorry but the excuse of “the experience is a payment in of itself” doesn’t work with me anymore. I used to be told the same thing, until realized that it was an excuse to fool me into thinking my time isn’t worth anything.

          It is plain Illegal to take someones time without paying them. Teaching them the trade of the business is essentially adding value or assets to said business, hence it’s a net gain. Thus the business must compensate. It’s as simple as that.

          That’s why the company I worked for had this thing called PAID training. Because it’s required. So, no there shouldn’t be unpaid internships ANYWHERE. Your time is worth some kind compensation (and “experience” does NOT count).

          Unpaid Internships are the legal equivalent of student slavery, and it should barred legally.

          • rendermonk

            But where your wrong Eximius, is that this kid wasn’t an employee, or even a “soon to be” employee….He was an intern. So all the trade secrets in the world, don’t equate to added value for Sony, if he finished the internship and moves on.

            That’s the difference between PAID TRAINNING, and an INTERNSHIP. DarthDiggler is 100% correct. While it may appear, from our uninformed position, that the kids MAY HAVE BEEN being taken advantage of, there’s no way to know for sure without all the facts and details of the program. But on the surface, it’s also very clear, that this was an UNPAID INTERNSHIP, they could have him doing anything, and he wouldn’t be entitled to pay.

    • rendermonk

      Listen, the way I see it, this kid came on UNDER SONY mind you, to be an intern. An UNPAID intern at that. And when he was given actual industry learning experience (ie; game testing) instead of having to get coffee and print copies of memos, he bitches and moans about it, and demands to be paid. Then SUES, SONY, whom I assume he was interning with for the chance to go places in the industry (which is permanently shot to hell now) and this is how he handles it!!?!?! That was his shot, his chance to start at the bottom and move up. I can see both sides of the argument, but if he was brought on as an intern, those were the hours, he could have been doing anything. Would he have sued the same way if he was getting coffee for all those long hours, and with that commute? A very select few, F-E-W get the once in a life time opportunity to intern for Sony Computer Entertainment….Kids today. I swear.

      • the question is: would the person still had complained if Sony paid him less of what he expected before going to lawyer?

  • foureyes oni

    you know he could have just quit . He worked there for 3 months without getting paid, him suing sony mostly just blacklists him from probably a lot of gaming companies. Doing so much for an internship only to sue them afterwards just seems ridiculous to me. So now he is paid off and forgotten. I do think he should have taken action i just don’t think this was the right one.

    • Allisa James

      That’s a really good point actually.

    • Not necessarily, this type of thing has been happening in corporations for years now. It’s become such a problem that laws may be set in place to protect interns. Major corporations sometimes treat/ see interns and nothing but free labor. Make them work 60+ hours, pay them nothing/ next to nothing, and get rid of them after they’ve been run to the ground.

      What Sony was doing was illegal and they paid the price:

      I leave this article for your reference: http://bloom.bg/18mG8cO

      And then this: http://nyti.ms/1dBqU9N

      and this: http://ti.me/14TY27S

      It used to be that internships were for learning about your intended career so that when you evertually graduate from college you’d have a job lined up at the place you interned in the summer. Not the case anymore. You have people who are career interns well into their late 20s, competing for internships with new grands and people their age– and are broke because of it.

      It’s a significant issue. (sorry, really passionate about this topic >_< )

      • Allisa James

        Wow I knew it was bad but not THAT bad. It’s crazy and disgusting how corporations use interns as free labor and run them in the ground. As an intern you have to know your rights and be able to identify when you’re being swindled (aka when they keep you for 6 months or more with no job offer, work you for overtime with no pay, etc.)

        And I’m sorry about that job but I’m glad you found another one 🙂 (That poor intern though…)

      • Ryan Meitzler

        It’s a shame: internships are essentially the new “entry-level” positions at many places these days. (I’m a recent college grad and know all too well)

    • Hussain Naseem

      he must have been hoping for a permanent job at sony but they must have refused his application resulting in him suing.

    • Joey

      I’m LOLing hard at the paupers without a clue that upvote you.

  • notcarolkaye

    Unpaid internships are just a sham all around. They have no place in a modern capitalist society that claims to offer a level playing field for upward mobility.

  • Joey

    Good, $0n¥ are thieving crooks and only paupers see it otherwise.

    • RandomUser2yr29387

      Huh? Paupers? That doesn’t make any sense.

  • PachterStation

    £4,600 is back pocket change to Sony. Sony clawed its money back when it lost that controller lawsuit (Dualshock tech) a few years ago. I don’t know how much PS3 controllers sell for in the US, but in the UK, they can top a whopping £46 ($72). PS2 controllers topped £20 back in the day. PS4 controllers will clock in at £60 ($93) tops. No controller is worth anything over £20. But people who spend too much time playing online, it can become costly to replace controllers. I think PS3 controllers are quite poor compared to the build quality of the Xbox 360 controller. The PS4 controller will be an improvement, but I don’t think it’ll be as good as the Xbox One controller. All in all, companies like Sony are always able to claw their money back at the cost of the consumer.