A former Saturday Night Live intern and a former MSNBC intern are the latest unpaid workers to take to the courts. Monet Eliastam and Jesse Moore filed a proposed class action complaint today against NBCUniversal in federal court in New York. “By misclassifying Plaintiffs and hundreds of workers as unpaid or underpaid interns, NBCUniversal has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment, workers’ compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, says the 23-page complaint (read it here). The proposed class action goes after NBCUniversal for labor law violations in using what are essentially free workers. “A key part of NBCUniversal’s success are the hundreds of unpaid or underpaid interns who work for it as production assistants, researchers, and delivery-people, but receive no or very little compensation for their work,” it adds.
This week’s filing comes on the heels of a June 11 summary judgment against Fox Searchlight in the ongoing Black Swan interns case as well as more recent intern suits against Conde Nast and Warner Music from interns who claim that they were performing employee duties for no wages. “I think the companies are going to start to have to understand they have to pay their workers, whether they call them interns or not,” Eliastam and Moor’s attorney Justin Swartz told me today. “As a result of these minimum wage violations, Plaintiffs and the members of the Intern Collective have suffered damages in amounts to be determined at trial, and are entitled to recovery of such amounts, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees, costs, and other compensation,” Eliastam and Moore’s filing says. The complaint covers the period from July 3, 2010 to whenever a final judgment is given by the courts. Attorney Swartz, who is with the NYC firm of Outten & Golden, also represents the plaintiffs in the potentially game changing Black Swan case.
Eliastam was at SNL as an intern from January 2012 to May of that year and then back at the late night show from September to December 2012. Working with SNL producer Justus McClarty, according to the complaint, Eliastam handled some paperwork and petty cash duties for the show as well as went on food, coffee and props runs in what she claims were typically 10 hour days. Moore was at MSNBC as an intern under Booking producer Carmen Wideman from September 2011 to November of that year. Unpaid Like Eliastam, Moore worked around three days a week for at least 24 hours a week booking travel arrangements for guests and providing segment details to guests on the network among other duties.