NBCUniversal has decided to settle rather than fight a lawsuit by unpaid interns. The settlement for $6.4 million was reached between the entertainment giant and the attorneys for lead plaintiff, Monet Eliastam, a 2012 Saturday Night Live intern, according to an exclusive report on The Hollywood Reporter website. U.S. District Judge Ronald Ellis will now need to sign off on the deal before it becomes final.
The lawsuit was filed in July of 2013 and claims NBCUniversal “misclassified its workers as unpaid interns and thus denied them benefits like a minimum wage salary, overtime pay, social security contributions and unemployment insurance.” A rash of intern lawsuits were filed against entertainment companies after a federal judge ruled that Fox Searchlight was the “employer” of two former interns who had worked on the film “Black Swan.” Fox is appealing that June 2013 ruling.
Smart move by NBC Universal to settle. Using unpaid interns to do work that should be paid has been an unethical practice in the entertainment industry for eons. Yeah, it’s a learning experience for interns. However, the unregulated free labor is a ripe area for abuse as well. It’s time to put the brakes on it.