News

PBS’ Charlie Rose settles with unpaid interns

PBS’ Charlie Rose settles with unpaid interns

Photo: WENN

(Reuters) – PBS talk show host Charlie Rose and his production company will pay roughly $110,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former unpaid interns, under an agreement approved by a New York state judge.

The victory, another win on the wages front for interns, comes amid a wave of lawsuits that followed a June 11 ruling by a federal judge in Manhattan that former production interns for the 2010 film “Black Swan” were de facto employees of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

In the so-called glamour industries of film, publishing and other media, unpaid internships are standard. The cost-saving practice has spread to other businesses, prompting experts to predict that litigation in more traditional fields could be next.

In the Charlie Rose case, former intern Lucy Bickerton filed a class-action lawsuit in March 2012 alleging that she and other interns of the Charlie Rose Show worked without pay for an average of six hours a day for several of days a week over the course of a semester.

The settlement, approved on Friday, grants each eligible intern who submits a claim form $110 for each week worked up to a maximum of 10 weeks, the average length of an academic semester internship.

Vedder Price attorney Lyle Zuckerman, who represented Charlie Rose, estimated his client would end up paying about $60,000 to former interns and another $50,000 to their attorneys.

In another settlement, fashion designer Norma Kamali agreed this week to settlement terms with a former intern.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks by former interns against Atlantic Records, W Magazine, the website Gawker, Fox Soccer Channel and a production company that produces programming for Nickelodeon, among other employers.

“It’s very important for the general unpaid internship lawsuit movement,” attorney Maurice Pianko said of the Kamali settlement.

Pianko said he could not discuss the terms of the preliminary settlement between Kamali and his client, Erica van Rabenswaay, but he credited the designer for resolving it fairly and quickly.

Pianko founded the group Intern Justice as a vehicle to represent unpaid interns challenging wage violations. He is also handling a lawsuit brought by a former intern against Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group.

In that case, Justin Henry has sued Warner in a New York state court on behalf of company interns from June 2007 to the present. The lawsuit alleges that for more than six months, Henry worked at least seven hours a day, five days a week answering phones, faxing paperwork, filing and picking up lunch for Warner Music employees.

The tasks he was performing meant he was an employee under state law that should be paid minimum wage and overtime, the complaint states.

The Gawker lawsuit was brought by former interns against the website and its founder, Nick Denton, in federal court. They said they “were not paid a single cent” to work at least 15 hours a week performing tasks such as writing posts, editing contributors and moderating online comment sections. The complaint also said that Gawker did not provide the interns with academic or vocational training.

To determine whether interns are interns or employees, both state and federal courts try to decipher whether the primary beneficiary of the internship was the intern or the employer.

The Black Swan case judge cited a 2010 fact sheet published by the U.S. Department of Labor on a six-prong test to determine whether an intern at a for-profit company must be paid. The test was based on a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court case related to railroad workers that established an exception for trainees.

“Menial as it was, their work was essential. The fact they were beginners is irrelevant,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley in New York wrote in determining the Fox Searchlight interns should be paid.

Charlie Rose attorney Zuckerman said that other judges, including those in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, may not apply the test in the same manner as Pauley.

Zuckerman said he and his client “firmly believe” that they met the test for proving it was an educational program that mainly benefited the interns, but, given the size of the settlement, protracted litigation didn’t make sense.

“You’ve got to have a big enough company to fight the fight,” Zuckerman said.

A preliminary settlement of the Charlie Rose lawsuit was announced in December 2012.

Recent Headlines

in Viral Videos

Famous album covers come alive

18-overlay1

No, your eyes aren't tricking you. The album covers in Roy Kafri's new music video ARE singing along.

in Sports

Vegas police probe complaint against Blake Griffin

Fresh
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin put the ball to his face as he reacts to being called for a foul against the Sacramento Kings during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Clippers won 117-101.

Police are investigating a man's allegation that Clippers star Blake Griffin attacked him in a Las Vegas nightclub during the weekend.

in Sports

NBA owners vote down lottery reform

Fresh
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media during a news conference in New York, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Silver announced that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the league in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.

NBA owners have voted down proposed changes to the league's draft lottery system, staving off efforts to curb tanking for the time being.

in Sports

Nine UNC employees fired or disciplined in scandal

Fresh
University of North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt, left, and President Tom Ross prepare to address members of the media with results of an investigation into academic irregularities following a special joint meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.

The probe found that nearly half of the more than 3,100 students enrolled in classes they didn't have to show up for, were athletes.

in Sports

World Series game 2

Fresh
FILE - At left, in an Oct. 12, 2014, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Jake Peavy throws during the second inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. At right, in a July 20, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Royals' Yordano Ventura pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston. The Giants try to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series when Jake Peavy starts against Kansas City rookie Yordano Ventura, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.

Game 2 of the World Series is tonight on KPUG as Jake Peavy goes to the hill for the Giants with Yordano Ventura going for the Royals.

Bellingham Traffic