MANHATTAN (CN) – In a class action, a former intern at “The Charlie Rose Show” claims the talk show host’s use of a “substantial number of unpaid interns” violates state labor law.
Lucy Bickerton sued Charles Rose and his production company, Charles Rose Inc., in New York County Court, on behalf of all interns who were paid less than minimum wage. She claims the cheap budget for Rose’s show depends upon the use of unpaid interns.
The complaint states: “Charles Rose hosts a prominent and long-running nightly talk show on PBS called ‘The Charlie Rose Show.’ The show airs on over 200 PBS affiliates throughout the country and claims to ‘engage the world’s best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, scientists and other newsmakers.’ The show operates on an annual budget of approximately $3.5 million, which is low for a television program airing five nights per week.
“Central to the shows lean production are the substantial number of unpaid interns who work on The Charlie Rose Show each day, but are paid no wages. The show’s own website makes clear that ‘[i]nterns are highly involved with every aspect of running [the] daily television show.’ Interns perform background research from print and online sources to prepare Mr. Rose for guest interviews, escort guests through the studio and set, and break down the set and clean up the ‘green room,’ the area where guests await their interviews, after each taping. Despite the significant work they perform, Charlie Rose interns are not compensated for any of their work, in violation of New York Labor Law.” (Brackets in complaint.)
Bickerton says she worked as an unpaid “editorial intern” from June 2007 to August 2007 for about 25 hours per week. She says she worked alongside 10 other unpaid interns.
Bickerton claims that though unpaid interns are a crucial labor force on “The Charlie Rose Show,” it does not provide them with academic or vocational training. She also claims the production company failed to keep accurate records of how many hours interns work.
She claims Rose misclassified hundreds of workers as unpaid interns, denying them unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, Social Security contributions and the right to earn a fair day’s wage.
“Unpaid internships have proliferated among white collar professions, especially in fields like politics, film, fashion, journalism and book publishing,” the complaint states. “However, the practice of classifying employees as ‘interns’ to avoid paying wages runs afoul of state wage and hour laws, which require employers to pay all workers who are ‘permitted or suffered to work’ the minimum wage and overtime. Employers’ failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.”
Bickerton seeks class damages for minimum wage and recordkeeping violations. She is represented by Rachel Bien, with Outten and Golden.