July 03, 2013 11:05am PT by Eriq Gardner
Former MSNBC and 'Saturday Night Live' Interns Target NBCUniversal in Lawsuit
The avalanche of lawsuits on the internship front keeps coming.
The latest is a proposed class action against NBCUniversal from Jesse Moore, who says he worked 24-hour-or-more weeks in the booking department at MSNBC in 2011, and Monet Eliastam, who says she worked 25-hour-or-more weeks on the staff of Saturday Night Live in 2012.
They are being represented by Outten & Golden, the same law firm that represented two former Black Swan interns in a summary judgment win against Fox Searchlight last month.
According to the complaint, “By misclassifying Plaintiffs and hundreds of workers as unpaid or underpaid interns, NBCUniversal has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment, workers’ compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
The plaintiffs believe that the amount of money in controversy exceeds $5 million.
The latest lawsuit adds to the growing intern-lawsuit canon. In recent weeks, Conde Nast, Gawker, Warner Music and others have been sued for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay minimum wage to interns. The timing of these lawsuits is no coincidence after the Fox litigation broke ground on the subject. Since then, Hollywood attorneys have been preparing.
This class action against NBCU alleging violations of the FLSA and New York Labor Laws estimates hundreds of interns in the proposed class. The complaint seeks unpaid wages, interest, and attorneys fees and costs for interns who worked at NBCUniversal between July 3, 2010, and the date of a final judgment.
Justin Swartz, attorney for the plaintiffs, says, “We hope that this case will send a clear message that private companies cannot rely on unpaid interns to perform entry-level work that contributes to operations and reduces their labor costs. Our clients and other unpaid interns seem to have been as integral to NBCUniversal’s business as other employees, but are different in a crucial way -- NBCUniversal didn’t pay them.”
The Labor Department has set forth a six-factor test to determine whether an internship might be unpaid. According to the criteria, employers are supposed to make sure that an internship is similar to what is given in an educational environment, be for the benefit of the intern, not displace regular employees, do work that is not of immediate advantage to the employer, not give any expectation of job, nor any understanding of entitlement to wages.
In this lawsuit, Moore says her job responsibilities included booking cars and travel arrangements for correspondents and guests on MSNBC's morning programs, answering phones, greeting guests, researching segment details and providing guests with "dub copies" of the shows in which they appeared.
Eliastam, who claims she regularly worked more than 10 hours in a single day, says her job responsibilities included obtaining and completing paperwork for "extras" and background actors, filing, processing petty cash envelopes, going on errands for food and coffee, locking down the set to make sure there were no disturbances and assisting at shoots of SNL skits.
We've reached out to NBCU and will provide any comment they have.