Employment-related lawsuits in the United States have been on the rise in recent years, with disputes ranging from whistleblower claims to wage and hour disputes. As we discussed in a recent post, “Pros and cons of the 1099 economy,” misclassification of employees is often the basis of legal claims that, in some cases, have resulted in companies changing their business models.
The classification of unpaid interns is another area of employment that has come under increased scrutiny, particularly in the entertainment business. NBC Universal, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Viacom have all been sued by unpaid interns in recent years over allegations that the companies violated state and federal wage laws.
According to the suit against Viacom, whose television networks include BET and MTV, the company illegally categorized the work done by interns as exempt from minimum-wage requirements. To settle the dispute, Viacom recently agreed to pay $7.2 million to former interns who worked in New York and California, though the amount that will actually be paid will depend on the number of interns who seek compensation.
More than 1,000 interns are potentially covered by the settlement.
The lawsuit was filed in 2013, and that same year Viacom started paying its interns.
In 2014, NBC Universal agreed to pay formerly unpaid interns $6.4 million.
Shulman, Hodges & Bastian is a full-service law firm that handles employment and labor claims for employees and employers. If you are facing an employment law issue, then don’t hesitate to speak with an attorney with experience in this complex area of law.