On Friday, April 4, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman granted conditional class certification status to individuals who previously worked as unpaid interns at Viacom and MTV, a ruling that will allow attorneys to send notice of impending legal action to thousands of others across the United States who also served as unpaid interns for the media giants. Former interns have claimed that they were wrongfully denied wages while performing a range of duties as “unpaid interns.” Attorney Jeffrey K. Brown, of Leeds Brown Law, P.C., serves as co- class counsel for the interns with Lloyd Ambinder, of Virginia & Ambinder, LLP.
The ruling on Friday came in the case of Casey O’Jeda, who worked as an intern at Viacom in the fall and winter terms in 2011-2012. O’Jeda spent nearly five months at Viacom and received no compensation for any work performed, even though it was nearly identical to that of paid employees. O’Jeda also stated that he received little to no educational training or benefit while at Viacom.
O’Jeda filed a claim in 2013, alleging that the actions of Viacom violated both state and federal labor laws. O’Jeda is represented in that action by Ambinder and Brown. Based on assertions that there were hundreds, if not thousands of other interns with similar experiences, Ambinder and Brown asked Judge Furman to certify a class, so that notice could go out to anyone with a potential claim.
“There are lots of other interns that will step forward because of a decision like this,” said Lenard Leeds. “We hope that this encourages workers to stand up for their rights to receive a wage for the work that they perform and the benefits they provide to companies.”
“We are glad that Judge Furman saw that the unpaid internship policies that existed for Casey [O’Jeda] existed throughout the company and throughout the country,” added Ambinder. “This was a legally sound decision.”
Leeds Brown Law and Ambinder have filed five other lawsuits on behalf of unpaid interns, naming as defendants MSG Holdings, Sony, Warner Music Group and Donna Karan International. The O’Jeda case is the first to receive conditional class certification. In two similar actions, filed on behalf of interns at Fox Searchlight and Hearst Corporation, the courts split, certifying the class against Fox, but rejecting the proposed class action involving Hearst.
If you spent time as an unpaid intern, or as a trainee, provisional employee or probationary employee, but received little or no educational benefit, we may be able to help you seek compensation. To learn more about the litigation, and find out whether you qualify for a potential claim, call us at (516)-873-9550 or (212)943-9080 (toll free at 800-585-4658), or contact us online.