A class action by a group of former Saturday Night Live interns against NBC Universal will be settled for $6.4 million. The lawsuit alleges that the interns either received no compensation or were paid below minimum wage for their work. The interns claim that they were wrongly classified as non-employees so that NBC could avoid following labor laws. Attorney David Scher discusses the lawsuit.
Unpaid interns are getting a lot of attention these days. But employers don’t always understand the law. Scher suggests that “this case is really signaling the end of free employees in the workplace.” There was a time when working as an intern was a good thing to do. The statute imposes strict liability, and a company is either in compliance or is breaking the law.
The use of interns has been very common in the entertainment industry, but having unpaid workers to perform simple tasks in an organization is obviously tempting to businesses. Scher believes that experience like this might be valuable to a lot of young people trying to get started in a particular field, but that opportunity will not be open to them after this case.
Scher also notes that the amount each plaintiff will receive is very low, about $500, which is not a big pay-off, but the plaintiffs in this case will have a hard time in the future finding work in the entertainment business.
With this ruling, the court tacitly approves of what amounts to blacklisting by NBC against the plaintiffs. Settlement agreements can include any number of provisions in them, and so long as nothing illegal is involved, there will be likely be no problem getting the settlement approved. However, Scher says, NBC is being vindictive in its attitude towards the plaintiffs in this case.
David L. Scher is a principal in The Employment Law Group. Mr. Scher focuses his practice on qui tam, whistleblower retaliation, and discrimination cases in D.C., Maryland, California, and nationally. He represents federal and corporate whistleblowers who have reported their employer’s wrongdoing. Mr. Scher is a frequent news commentator and has appeared on local news WUSA9 (Montgomery county, Maryland), KSBW8 (Salinas, Monterey, Santa Cruz), as well as ABC World News and on Hearst Television, Inc. stations across the country. Additionally, Mr. Scher has been interviewed by Forbes.com, Politico, and the Washington Post on topics such as employment discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, free speech issues and related employment matters. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.