Are Unpaid Interns In the Past?

Intern photo

NBC Universal and a group of former interns have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit contending the interns should have been paid for their work. The $6.4-million settlement, subject to court approval, would be shared by thousands of interns, including some who worked at “Saturday Night Live.” The lawsuit is among several that have roiled the entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, where unpaid internships have long been a cost-saver for television networks, movie studios, production companies and music labels — and a foot in the door for Hollywood hopefuls.

The settlement would be the largest yet among several cases filed by interns against entertainment companies. Last year, for example, talk show host Charlie Rose and his production company paid about $110,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former unpaid interns, with part of the proceeds going to the interns as back pay.

However, attorney Cheryl Orr, chairwoman of Drinker Biddle & Reath’s national labor and employment practice, said in an email that she “would not put too much stock in the ‘precedent’ created by” the NBCUniversal settlement.

“There may (or may not) have been other business factors impacting the outcome,” she said. “Certainly these cases will continue to be hard-fought.”

NBCUniversal declined to comment.

A wave of internship lawsuits was touched off in 2011, when former unpaid interns on the film “Black Swan” filed suit against Fox Searchlight Pictures, alleging that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates that unpaid internships benefit the interns, not the employers, among other criteria.

The Fox case was followed by lawsuits from unpaid interns at Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records and publishing houses Conde Nast and Hearst Corp.

Eric Glatt, a lead plaintiff in the Fox lawsuit, said the settlement in the NBCUniversal matter indicates that the other legal proceedings “have merit and are on very solid ground.”

Read the entire article by Daniel Miller at

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