Three former interns are suing news and gossip website Gawker, claiming that they performed work for the site or its affiliates without compensation.
Andrew Hudson, Hanchen Lu, and Aulistar Mark were interns with Gawker Media LLC between 2008 and 2010. They say they worked between 15 and 25 hours per week.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint on behalf of all unpaid interns who worked for Gawker Media, and also named as a defendant Nick Denton, the founder of the media empire.
“Gawker employs numerous other ‘interns’ in the same way, paying them nothing or underpaying them and utilizing their services to publish its content on the Internet, an enterprise that generates significant amounts of revenue for Gawker,” the inters say in their complaint.
Follows Fox Searchlight ruling
The suit comes on the heels of a ruling that, in order for interns to work without pay, or for pay lower than the minimum wage, employers must comply with certain criteria laid out by the United States Department of Labor.
The decision, which was handed down earlier this month, grew out of a suit filed by two interns on the movie “Black Swan” against Fox Searchlight Productions.
In that case, U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled that interns can only be unpaid or underpaid if they are doing work that is educational and benefits the interns, rather than work that is primarily for the benefit of the employer or displaces paid employees.
Rachel Bien, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Fox Searchlight case, told The New York Times that “this decision will go far to discourage private companies from having unpaid internship programs.”
Judging from the Gawker case, the Searchlight decision also threatens to spur a flood of lawsuits by unpaid interns from years past.
Earlier Hearst suit
Indeed, even before the decision was handed down, a similar case spurred Time Magazine to write the headline “The Beginning of the End of the Unpaid Internship.”
That case was brought by Diana Wang against the Hearst Corporation, whose magazine Harper’s Bazaar she says forced her to work up to 55 hours per week without pay. The lawsuit was filed as a class action on behalf of any unpaid or underpaid Hearst intern from the last six years.