Popular New York Recording Studio Facing Labor Lawsuit

Justin Henry's internship allegedly didn't going well. Two weeks ago, he brought a class action lawsuit against Warner Music for exploiting him and other interns.

Evidently, Henry's next job in the music industry wasn't fruitful, either. On Thursday, he brought a second class action lawsuit -- this time against New York's Chung King Studios.

The new lawsuit challenges the circumstances by which cheap labor helped record producers and studio engineers make song hits. Chung King is one of the nation's leading recording studios, having hosted superstars including Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Jay-Z.

The claim arguably is the rebuttal to those who say nonpaying internships lead to good places. "I think it is clear that companies that are willing to exploit new workers are not the sort of companies that will help an employee’s future career prospects," says Maurice Planko, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Like Henry's other lawsuit, as well as the growing number of claims from interns against entertainment and media companies, this one claims a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to provide statutory minimum wage and overtime pay.

When Henry worked at Atlantic Records between October 2007 and May 2008, he was getting nothing, according to the lawsuit filed two weeks ago. The internship apparently led to a position at Chung King where he reports working from October 2008 until August 2010.

It was a paying job, says Henry, but only barely. He says he got a flat rate of $200 each week despite consistently having to work more than 40 hours.

"While employed," says the lawsuit, "Plaintiff Henry was responsible for carrying out various tasks necessary to the operation and maintenance of the recording studio, such as setting up the studio, creating CD covers, making labels, answering telephones, making deliveries, in addition to cleaning the bathrooms, mopping, wiping windows, etc."

During the time that Henry was employed, the federal minimum wage increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Henry says he should have been making that plus overtime pay for weeks he worked more than 40 hours.

Henry might not be alone. The lawsuit estimates the size of the putative class against Chung King as more than 100 employees.

A rep for the studio said he couldn't immediately comment without having a chance to review the complaint.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner