Unpaid Hearst Interns’ Labor Suit Thrown Out

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Three years after being told their trial would be postponed indefinitely, former unpaid interns at Hearst-owned magazines have learned the case will never see a federal jury.
     In 2012, former Harper’s Bazaar intern Diana Wang filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer’s publishing empire, claiming unfair labor practice on behalf of more than 3,000 other interns hired by Hearst over the prior six years.
     Other interns from Cosmo, Marie Claire, Esquire, Redbook and Seventeen magazines joined the suit, telling similar tales of menial labor for no pay.
     The litigation fell among a spate of several similar Fair Labor Standards Act complaints against other media companies, including Conde Nast Gawker, Sirius FM, Fox and Sony.
     A year into their lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer issued a ruling rejecting class certification, and telling them that a trial would have to wait “sine die,” Latin for “without [a future set] day.”
     Baer died the following year, leaving behind a legacy of strong support for civil liberties.
     The New York Times remembered him as a judge who “drew fire” from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani for scuttling his anti-protest law, and upset Bill Clinton — who appointed him — by suppressing evidence from a drug bust on the grounds that the police in the neighborhood where it was seized were known for corruption.
     As for Baer’s legacy in the Hearst suit, the Second Circuit ultimately affirmed the crux of his original ruling. The appeals court heard that case in tandem with another lawsuit against the makers of the movie “Black Swan,” whose producers Fox Searchlight also tamped down an intern rebellion.
     No longer a class action, the Hearst case returned to the courtroom of U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken, who had to determine on remand whether the plaintiffs qualified as “interns” or “employees.”
     Under the standards set in the “Black Swan” case, Glatt v. Fox Searchlight, interns do not have to be paid if they receive “educational and vocational benefits” through “hands-on” job experience.
     On Wednesday, Oetken found that the Hearst interns fit this description and threw out their lawsuit.
     “It is undisputed that each of the plaintiffs learned practical skills from his or her internship,” he wrote, describing how they booked models, organized professional events, created storyboards, and learned other skills of the trade.
     “These interns worked at Hearst magazines for academic credit, around academic schedules if they had them, with the understanding that they would be unpaid and were not guaranteed an offer of paid employment at the end of the internships,” the 17-page opinion said. “They learned practical skills and gained the benefit of job references, hands-on training, and exposure to the inner workings of industries in which they had each expressed an interest.”
     Attoreny Adam Klein, who represents the interns for Outten & Golden said, “We are disappointed with the decision and are considering our options for an appeal.”
     Hearst’s spokesman Paul Luthringer said the company is pleased with the decision.

%d bloggers like this: