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 Sports

No Mo’ne on mound, Philly loses to Chicago in LLWS

The 16 Little League baseball teams from around the world line the field at Volunteer Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014.

Chicago is making its first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series. The victory sends the Great Lakes champs into the U.S. title game on Saturday against Las Vegas.

in Sports

Bell & Blount play in Eagles victory over Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount, right, tries to strip the ball from fellow Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell in a drill during a combined NFL football training camp session with the Buffalo Bills in Latrobe, Pa. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both played one day after each was arrested for marijuana offenses. Bell finished with 23 yards on nine carries, while Blount ran for 32 yards on seven carries.

in Sports

David Price throws one-hitter but Rays beat Tigers 1-0

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher David Price delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

With Detroit's loss, the Mariners now have a half-game advantage over the Tigers for the second wild card spot.

in Sports

Keeper Tim Howard taking break from US team

United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard gestures to his teammates after making a save during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The three-time World Cup veteran has asked U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann not to consider him for selection to the roster until September 2015.

in Sports

Lynx’s Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Minnesota Lynx’ Maya Moore gestures during the first half of a WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun, Sunday, July 27, 2014, in Uncasville, Conn.

Minnesota's Maya Moore has won the WNBA most valuable player award after leading the league in scoring.

Bellingham Traffic