Viacom Inc. and its affiliated companies agreed to pay $7.2 million to a group of unpaid interns to settle a class action. The interns claim they were unlawfully denied minimum wage in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws.
A former MTV intern filed the lawsuit in 2013, and the class grew to more than 1,300 plaintiffs. According to the LA Times, Viacom, like many other entertainment/media giants, illegally classified unpaid interns as exempt employees who are not entitled to minimum wage. This suit is similar to several other class actions against companies in the entertainment business that regularly offer internships to get free work while allowing the interns to gain experience and get a foot in the door of an otherwise very competitive industry.
Courts use the “primary beneficiary test” to determine whether an intern should be paid, assessing which party – the intern or the employer – is the benefits the most from the working relationship. If the employer gains more from the relationship, it must pay the intern.
Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group has represented thousands of plaintiffs in cases alleging, misclassification of employees, unpaid “off the clock” work, and other forms of wage theft. If you suspect that your employer has wrongfully denied your hard earned compensation, please contact us today – we can help.