December 20, 2012 11:19am PT by Eriq Gardner
'Charlie Rose' Interns Settle Unpaid Wages Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit brought by a former intern at the Charlie Rose show has been settled for about $250,000.
On Tuesday, attorneys for Lucy Bickerton, who sued on behalf of herself and others situated, told a New York court that a deal had been struck to end litigation that contended violations of New York's labor laws arising from a failure to pay the show's interns.
Bickerton sued in March, alleging that she wasn't paid despite working 25 hours a week for three months in the summer of 2007. In her original complaint, she said there were 10 other interns working for Rose during the time she spent on the show. A 2008 graduate of Wesleyan University, Bickerton said her duties included assembling background research and press packets, escorting guests, digesting Rose's interviews and cleaning.
The lawsuit didn't get very far before negotiations commenced. Rose never responded to the claims.
According to court documents filed this week, each class member will receive $110 for each week that he or she interned on the show, up to a maximum of 10 weeks. The payment is noted to be based on an average internship day of 6 hours, and an average internship week of 2.5 days. The class covers those interns who worked on the show between March 14, 2006, and Oct. 1, 2012.
To settle the claims, Rose has also agreed to pay the plaintiff's attorneys $50,000 for legal work -- an amount on top of class members' settlement awards.
Bickerton told The New York Times that the settlement was "a really important moment for this movement against unpaid internships."
Other lawsuits against media and entertainment companies are ongoing.
The biggest might be a challenge against the internship programs at Fox Entertainment Group. Originally a lawsuit that involved two interns who worked on Fox Searchlight's Black Swan, a New York judge allowed in October the class action to include a class of interns who worked at various production divisions as well as corporate interns.
Labor attorneys have cautioned that Hollywood could see more litigation over internship programs unless they follow protocol from the Department of Labor that internships be expressly educational, for the benefit of the intern, that the intern doesn't displace regular employees, that the employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern, that the intern is not entitled to a job after the internship, and that the intern understands that he or she is not entitled to wages. The interpretation of these criteria hasn't been particularly well addressed in courts as of yet.
In arguing for a judge's approval, the plaintiff's lawyers note, "The determination whether interns are employees covered by the [New York Labor Laws] would be fact-intensive, requiring Plaintiffs to present evidence regarding the nature of the internship program, the activities in which interns participated and the benefits that they provided to Defendants, all of which would likely be disputed by Defendants ... While Plaintiff believes that she would ultimately prevail, the settlement eliminates these risks and will allow all class members to recover now."
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