Music Interns at Time Warner Allowed to File Class Action

Up to 3,000 interns who worked for the company Warner Music have banded together to demand compensation, per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The lead plaintiff in this case is a young man named Kyle Grant, who interned for Warner Brothers’ Records (a subsidiary of Warner Music Group) in 2012 and 2011. Grant interned 10.5 hour days and allegedly did work that a company would normally pay employees to do. He and his fellow plaintiffs argue that WMG’s internship program violated the FLSA.

Were Grant and his fellow interns misclassified? Should they have been considered employees? Or should they have been considered “trainees,” for the purposes of the FSLA? If the latter, they might not deserve compensation.

Over the past few years, two different intern cases have turned out very differently.

As we reported a few months ago, Fox Entertainment Group recently lost its intern class action suit — an action very similar to the one that Grant et al are bringing. However, Marie Claire, Harpers and Cosmopolitan all successfully defended a similar FLSA class action by demonstrating that their interns were “trainees.”

The 2nd Circuit is considering appeals in both cases, the results of which will undoubtedly have a big influence on what will happen in the WMG suit.

District Judge Paul Gardephe recently ruled that notice should, indeed, be sent out about the WMG class action. The judge ruled narrowly, meaning that he didn’t considering the merits of Grant’s arguments. Rather, he just said that the collective action should go to the next phase.

The battle over the future of American internships is heating up, so expect more headlines in the weeks and months to come. For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities recently filed an amicus brief in the Fox Entertainment Group case. Some companies have already capitulated to intern demands, rather than risk getting dragged into costly litigation.

The Elite modeling company, for instance, agreed to pay out nearly half a million dollars to interns in a recent settlement.

For help understanding your rights under the FLSA or New York Labor Laws – or for assistance with your harassment, discrimination, whistleblower or retaliation case – call the Joseph & Kirschenbaum team today at (212) 688-5640, or email us at info@jhllp.com for a free consultation.