Gawker’s Unpaid Interns Sue After Fox Searchlight RulingChristie Smythe
Gawker Media LLC was sued by unpaid interns who allege the online publisher violated minimum-wage law, days after a federal judge ruled in a similar case that interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. should have been paid.
In the Gawker case, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court, three former interns said they each spent at least 15 hours a week working on blogs affiliated with the New York media company and were “not paid a single cent.”
“Gawker employs numerous other ‘interns’ in the same way, paying them nothing or underpaying them and utilizing their services to publish its content on the Internet, an enterprise that generates significant amounts of revenue for Gawker,” the plaintiffs said in the complaint, which was filed on behalf of all of the company’s unpaid interns.
The lawsuit, which also names company founder Nick Denton as a defendant, seeks unpaid wages and overtime. Representatives for Gawker didn’t respond to a request for comment.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley in Manhattan this month ruled in the Fox Searchlight case that unpaid internships must adhere to U.S. Labor Department criteria to be exempt from minimum wage requirements.
Under those factors, which are based on a 1947 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the position must be structured for the intern’s benefit and shouldn’t displace regular workers. The employer also shouldn’t derive immediate advantages from the intern’s activities.
The former Fox Searchlight interns alleged they were asked to perform routine errands and other tasks for the movie maker, such as making deliveries, organizing file cabinets, making photocopies and taking lunch orders. Though menial, the work was “essential,” Pauley wrote, and they should have been paid.
The Gawker interns alleged that they performed tasks for the blogs including writing, researching, editing, promoting articles on social media and moderating comment forums.
“We filed this case because Gawker was breaking the law, and the company was taking advantage of young people who really have no bargaining power,” Andrea M. Paparella, a lawyer for the Gawker interns, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Of course, the Fox decision is a good thing.”
The case is Mark v. Gawker Media LLC, 13-cv-04347, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The Fox case is Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., 1:11-cv-06784, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).