Former ICM Interns Seek Class Action Certification

Issue 38 BIZ Interns Illustration - H 2012

Issue 38 BIZ Interns Illustration - H 2012

Two former ICM interns have submitted a motion for class certification in a lawsuit that has the potential of developing into a significant one on the internship front.

In papers lodged at a New York federal court on Tuesday, Kimberly Behzadi and Jason Rindenau say they weren't paid to perform work normally assigned to agents or their assistants. Among the assigned duties was "script coverage," the process of reading scripts and summarizing them, and "coverage reports," or condensing information in scripts for use in casting and client meetings. The two former interns also say they did administrative work ranging from doing agents' expenses to maintaining a calendar of comedy events for agents.

They are now looking to provide notice to other former ICM interns who might join the proposed class action. Behzadi says she observed more than 30 unpaid interns during her time at ICM in early 2012. Rindenau witnessed approximately 45 interns the previous summer. The law firm of Outten & Golden, representing the two, wants ICM to provide information about other interns.

Unlike many of the other internship lawsuits, the ICM case kicked off with the talent agency's effort to curtail the claims by citing an agreement to arbitrate.

In late August, ICM submitted a motion to dismiss, which argued that Behzadi had disregarded her obligations under the arbitration agreement by filing a complaint in federal court. The agency argued that her claims were within the scope of arbitration.

However, Behzadi's lawyer is opposing the motion on the basis that her agreement came after she was an intern, when she accepted a paid position at ICM as a "floater assistant." (According to her declaration, she was then promoted to Assistant in February 2013, reporting to two agents, before she was laid off last December.) As such, her arbitration agreement is said to have covered "prospective — not retroactive" employment claims.

The arbitration agreement is also slammed by plaintiffs' lawyers as "substantively and procedurally unconscionable under California law because it imposes a cost-sharing regime that is contrary to Behzadi's right to fee-shifting under the [Fair Labor Standards Act] and New York Labor Law."

In its own papers, ICM argues that "simply because some of Behzadi’s allegations pre-date the execution of the Arbitration Agreement is of no consequence," citing one 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (Arrigo) as precedent.

The motion to dismiss was lodged, though, before the lawsuit was amended to add Rindenau as a proposed class representative. The addition of a second former ICM intern could provide some cover for the lawsuit to proceed regardless of what the judge has to say about Behzadi's situation.

The proposed class action figures to be impacted by Fox's pending appeal of a decision giving victory to two former interns who worked on the film Black Swan, but the looming appellate showdown didn't stop the advance of another internship class action against Viacom.

Twitter: @eriqgardner