The interns, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, performed basic administrative work such as organizing filing cabinets, tracking purchase orders, making copies, drafting cover letters and running errands.

"Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works," Pauley wrote. "But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them."

Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, said the company believes the ruling was erroneous and plans to appeal. Fox had argued that the interns received a greater benefit than the company in the form of job references, resume listings and experience working at a production office.

Juno Turner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was the first time a court had given employee status to young people doing the types of duties commonly associated with interns. The case is one of several that have been filed in recent years demanding that all interns deserve a salary.

"This is an incredibly important decision as far as establishing that interns have the same wage and hour rights as other employees," Turner said. "You can't just call something an internship and expect not to pay people when the interns are providing a direct benefit to the company."

In ruling for the interns, the judge followed a six-part test outlined by the Labor Department for determining whether an internship can be unpaid. Under the test, the internship must be similar to an educational environment, run primarily for the benefit of the intern as opposed to the employer, and the intern's work should not replace that of regular employees.

Glatt, the lead plaintiff, lamented the fact that unpaid internships have become so normal "people do it without blinking an eye."

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