Companies have been significantly more leery in the last few years about employing unpaid interns as the numbers of lawsuits associated with them have risen steadily since 2012. But for some, it may be too late, and they are now embroiled in wage and treatment legal action that has turned heads. Warner Music has been one of the most spotlighted companies since 2013, with a lead plaintiff, but others are now claiming that the working conditions of the internship program violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Kyle Grant is the primary suer, and he and other ex-interns have now been granted the right to alert over 3,000 other people who could potentially gather behind the cases to form a class in the lawsuit.
U.S. district judge Paul Gardephe is quoted in the Hollywood Reporter on the cases: “Plaintiffs have made out a facie case of a common FLSA violation. Plaintiffs allege that they performed the same work-as non-exempt employees in their respective departments, and that they received no compensation or academic credit for their work. Plaintiffs have also submitted documentary evidence that supports their claims, including internship position postings that uniformly state, ‘Every Intern is assigned a special project that will both assist them in increasing their understanding of how each department operates, and aid the department in addressing a business need.’ The evidence offered by Plaintiffs is sufficient to meet the ‘low’ standard of proof for court-authorized notice.”
Interns have been claimed victories in similar lawsuits against other companies, so Warner Music should be a little worried. The company has dismissed the potential for class action, saying that not enough other people will want in on the lawsuit. The attorneys at Virginia & Ambinder and Leeds Brown LLP are heading up the effort on behalf of the ex-interns who claim that they performed full-time tasks that other paid employees could have done, and were not compensation or given academic credit.
Other big-name companies that have been the focus of intern lawsuits are Elite Model Management, Fox, Charlie Rose, and Condé Nast. Some of these organizations have been successful at defending themselves such as Hearst, which claimed that the plaintiffs’ rights to compensation would engage the difference between being labeled an employee or a trainee under FLSA guidelines. Whether Warner Music will be as lucky is yet to be seen.