Unpaid internships are ubiquitous in the entertainment industry. In fact, they almost seem to be a prerequisite to landing a paid position. Companies market their internship programs by promising experience, exposure and a glimmer of hope that it will lead to a paid gig. Because after all, isn’t that how you get your metaphorical foot in the door? That might not be the case anymore as unpaid internship may soon become a thing of the past.
This past week, Warner Music Group settled a lawsuit that has the potential to change the structure of internship programs as we know it. Two former interns, Kyle Grant and Justin Henry, filed lawsuits against the music giant for Labor violations. Kyle Grant interned for Warner Brothers Records between August 2012 and April 2013, and Justin Henry interned for Atlantic Records between October 2007 and May 2008.
In a Newsweek article , Grant claimed that he spent most of his internship fetching drinks, taking lunch orders, and doing other “things that have nothing to do with working in radio promotions.” In a separate lawsuit, Henry alleged that his duties included answering phones, preparing coffee, making photocopies and running personal errands for paid Warner Music employees.
Last May these two lawsuits were consolidated and the Plaintiffs received approval to bring a class action lawsuit, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, representing more than 3,000 previous interns who worked for WMG.
There is a growing trend of lawsuits waged by disgruntled unpaid interns. Elite Model Management recently agreed to a $450,000 settlement with 150 of its former interns. This was the largest settlement of an intern class action at the time. Other entertainment giants such as NBC Universal, Viacom, Fox and IMC Partners have all faced similar lawsuits. According to the Hollywood Reporter, IMC will be paying up to $725,000 to resolve their suit. Another intern is looking to bring a potential class action against Wenner Media, the parent company of Rolling Stone magazine and US Weekly.
If you are a current of former unpaid intern, you too may be able to recover unpaid wages if your internship violated Federal and California Labor Laws. Please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Braunstein & Braunstein, PC for more information.