NBCUniversal Set To Pay $6.4M In Settlement With Unpaid Interns

Unpaid internships in the entertainment industry often offer Hollywood hopefuls a glimpse behind the curtain and a foot in the door. But the hours are long and the compensation is nonexistent. Those qualities apparently didn’t sit well with a group of former NBCUniversal interns and now the company is prepared to settle their class action lawsuit for $6.4 million.

The Los Angeles Times reports the settlement, which is subject to court approval, would be split among the thousands of interns who lodged the complaint against the Comcast-owned company.

According to the lawsuit, the interns claimed NBCUniversal was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates that unpaid internships benefit interns, not employees.

The former interns say they should have been paid for the work they performed but instead received “no compensation or compensation at a rate less than the applicable minimum wage law.”

Because the interns contended that the work they were tasked with completing had previously been done by paid workers, they accused the company of “improperly classifying them as non-employee interns exempt from federal and state minimum wage … requirements.”

Under the settlement, the two interns who brought forth the lawsuit will receive special bonuses from NBCUniversal. A select group of plaintiffs will receive $2,000 to $20,000, while the vast majority of those who qualify to be included in the settlement will receive just $505.

The pending settlement by NBCUniversal, which continues to deny the allegations and wrongdoing in the case, has brought a sliver of hope to other former unpaid interns battling with entertainment companies over wages.

Back in 2011, former unpaid interns on the film “Black Sawn” filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures seeking back pay and damages for themselves and an unspecified number of other interns who worked for Searchlight and other parts of Fox Entertainment Group.

For its part, Searchlight argues that the interns were hired and managed by an independent company. However, a U.S. District judge rejected the argument, leading the company to file an appeal.

While that suit is ongoing, plaintiffs say the outcome of the NBCUniversal suit is promising.

“I think that sends a very clear message to other media companies — and any large employer who has taken advantage of unpaid intern labor — that they should take this issue very, very seriously,” the lead plaintiff for the Fox suit tells the Times.

NBCUniversal to settle suit by former interns for $6.4 million [Los Angeles Times]

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