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The suddenly hot legal issue of internships has spread to the music industry.
On Monday, June 17, a former Atlantic Records intern named Justin Henry brought a proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and others similarly situated against the Warner Music Group. The complaint filed in New York Supreme Court seeks to recover claimed unpaid minimum wages and overtime wages for a class that’s believed to be greater than 100 individuals.
The lawsuit comes less than a week since a federal judge in New York ruled that two interns who worked on Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan were classified improperly as unpaid interns and were really “employees” covered by federal labor laws. That New York judge also certified a class action against the Fox Entertainment Group. Since the ruling, there’s been a proposed class action filed against Conde Nast publications, and now this new lawsuit — what the plaintiffs are touting as the first to be filed against the music industry business.
Henry says he worked at the WMG subsidiary Atlantic Recording Corp. between October 2007 and May 2008. According to the complaint, he typically worked five days each week from 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., but was sometimes required to stay later.
During his work weeks — which allegedly ran past the 40 hours per week that might trigger overtime pay obligations — Henry’s duties “primarily consisted of answering the phones, faxing papers, filing papers, and retrieving lunch for paid employees,” says the lawsuit.
This case is a tad different from the one brought against Fox and highlights some of the potential dangers on the internship front, particularly for companies based in New York.
Unlike Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, the two interns who sued Fox, Henry isn’t alleging any violation of the federal Fair Standards Labor Act. Instead, Henry is now in state court and leading a proposed class action that alleges that New York labor laws were violated.
That’s an important distinction because according to one of Henry’s attorneys, Maurice Pianco, the statute of limitations for violation of New York labor law is a whopping six years. The specific labor law cited by Henry’s attorneys also raise the possibility of recovering costs and attorney’s fees. Pianco has been leading an outfit called “Intern Justice” that has been attempting to spearhead unpaid internship cases.
The lawsuit contends that Warner and Atlantic are the “employer” of Henry for purposes of applying New York’s minimum wage standards.
We’ve reached out to Warner Music for comment, and if we hear anything, we’ll update.
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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