Lionsgate is the latest to face a familiar Hollywood legal situation: a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of its unpaid interns.
Anthony Tart, a former intern on The Wendy Williams Show, is claiming in a complaint filed on Friday in a New York district court that he and other interns are entitled to payment for their work on the talk show. He’s suing Lionsgate and affiliated Debmar-Mercury, a producer of Wendy Williams, to recover wages he claims he and similarly situated interns are owed under New York and federal labor laws.
His tasks on the show included washing dishes, getting coffee, picking up art supplies and throwing out garbage, he claims. He’s arguing, in the same fashion as other former interns litigating against their employers, that his work didn’t meet the Department of Labor’s standards for unpaid internships.
In particular, his complaint holds, the production companies benefited from the interns’ work but provided the interns no academic or vocational training, and it would have required hiring employees in the absence of the interns.
It’s the argument that former Fox Searchlight interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt made successfully in their landmark win against the studio last year, a ruling that came with a class action certification over internships throughout Fox Entertainment Group. That decision — which is currently under appeal — led to the swath of internship lawsuits filed against studios and companies including ICM, Warner Music, Viacom and NBCUniversal.
Lionsgate, which produces films including The Hunger Games series and television like Mad Men and Orange Is the New Black, continued not paying its interns even after most studios introduced paid internship programs in the fallout of the Fox Searchlight decision, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s providing pay for its upcoming spring internships, however.
Tart is not proposing a class to represent interns throughout Lionsgate. If certified, his class action would only cover former and current interns on The Wendy Williams Show. His complaint estimates there are about 100.
He is represented by Lloyd Ambinder at Virginia & Ambinder and Jeffrey Brown at Leeds Brown, who’ve represented numerous former interns pursuing similar litigation, including those suing Warner Music and Atlantic Records. More recently, they represented an intern in a lawsuit against David Letterman‘s production company and CBS, which the intern withdrew one day after filing. She reportedly later told the New York Post that her “beguiling legion of lawsuit-hungry lawyers” had coerced her into the lawsuit.
A Lionsgate spokesman declined to comment on the current lawsuit.