A New York federal judge gave an initial thumbs-up last Thursday to what is believed to be the largest unpaid internship settlement on the books: $450,000.
Elite Model Management was sued by a former unpaid intern in February 2013 (See Complaint), claiming that Elite deliberately misclassified interns as non-employees who were not protected by state and federal wage requirements. The plaintiff argued that Elite’s unpaid interns actually did the work of employees and should have been paid, and sought $50 million in damages.
The settlement (which must be approved in a May 1st hearing) will pay more than 100 former interns between $700 and $1,750 each, with $150,000 in fees for the lawyers. The settlement shows that these lawsuits can result in a significant recovery in a relatively short time period. As such, it should only strengthen the recent wave of unpaid intern lawsuits (See Discussion Here).
Speaking of recent unpaid intern lawsuits, lawyers for Gawker Media last Friday submitted their opposition to the conditional certification motion filed by unpaid interns who sued back in June (See Complaint). Gawker hopes to convince the court that it never had a formal internship program and that the site-specific internships that may have existed within the company differed greatly. Because of these differences and the unique experiences of each intern, Gawker contends, there is no way the court can evaluate the interns’ claims as a class. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.