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PBS' Charlie Rose Settles with Unpaid Interns as Lawsuits Spread

Jul 1, 2013 / Media Coverage

Reuters—Amanda Becker

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.

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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.

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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.

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