Gawker Can't Dodge Interns' Class Action
MANHATTAN (CN) - Gawker must face a class action lawsuit from its former unpaid interns until an appellate court sorts out whether another media company's similar practices violated U.S. labor law in a different case, a federal judge ruled.
Aulistar Mark and Andrew Hudson sued Gawker and its editor-in-chief Nick Denton last year on behalf of interns who worked in New York or elsewhere and were paid below the minimum wage.
Their lawsuit followed a spate of similar lawsuits against New York-based media giants that rely on unpaid labor. One case was filed by staffers for Hearst-owned magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Cosmo, Marie Claire, Esquire, Redbook and Seventeen. Another involved interns from the film "Black Swan," who accused Fox Searchlight of misclassifying their employee status to avoid paying them.
The plaintiffs in the case against Hearst lost in Federal Court last year, but that decision is under appeal.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled that she would allow the Gawker interns to advance their case until the appellate court clarifies the law.
"At this stage, the court need not definitely weigh in on this dispute, which is currently the subject of an appeal in the Second Circuit," Nathan wrote in a 15-page opinion.
To prove that they were "stand-ins for compensated employees," Gawker's ex-interns pointed to job postings looking for workers to help with "'[a]ssisting' in various editorial and technical capacities, 'help[ing] us with our beloved communities,' and 'stressful labor under constant deadlines,'" according to the opinion.
"The last description is surely tongue-in-cheek," Nathan wrote.
Attorneys for neither party immediately responded to a request for comment.