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Unpaid Magazine Interns Attempt to Pursue Class Action Claims For Unpaid Overtime and Wages Rejected


While many interns don’t expect to get paid for the work that they do, many also do not expect to work 11-hour days performing the same tasks as paid employees. Such is allegedly the case with a class-action of interns for Hearst Corporation, who allege that they did the same work as paid employees and, as such, should be compensated accordingly.

Hearst does not deny that the interns sometimes allegedly worked as much as 11 hours a day doing the same work as paid staffers. However, the class action lawsuit was denied based on insufficient evidence to support the commonality requirement. The only thing the plaintiffs had in common was that they were unpaid interns working for Hearst Corporation. They worked for a number of different, including Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Redbook among others. They had different jobs and performed different tasks which, according to the U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, is not enough to fulfill the commonality requirement.

The plaintiffs advised the Court to consider the “nature of the work that interns performed” to determine commonality. Judge Baer points out that this “vague advice … eschews rather than addresses, the glaring problem here, that the Court cannot resort to any common proof to determine the very ‘nature’ of the interns’ work”.
In his ruling denying the plaintiffs class-action status, Judge Baer cited the Walmart v. Dukes Supreme Court decision. The highly contentious ruling found that the plaintiffs failed to support the commonality requirement when they could not prove a company-wide policy of discrimination.

Judge Baer also cited two lawsuits since then, in which the courts have granted class-action status. For example, he says, in Meyer v. U.S. Tennis Ass’n, the court found commonality because the proposed class members carried out their duties for the defendant based on the same policy, the same training, the same job description, and the same procedures. In Jacob v. Duane Reade, Inc., the judge found commonality based, not only on the uniform classification of the plaintiffs, but also the uniform description of their duties.

In his ruling, Judge Baer pointed out that these cases differ from the Hearst case in that the “plaintiffs in Meyer and Jacob were able to show a company-wide policy regarding employee duties in addition to a company-wide policy regarding a certain employee classification, whereas here … there is nothing more than a corporate-wide policy of classifying the proposed class members as unpaid interns based on academic credit letters.”

Judge Baer further enumerates that “evidence of a corporate-wide policy of classifying the proposed class members as unpaid interns in insufficient, as that policy alone cannot answer the liability question, which turns on what the interns did and what benefit they received during their internship.”

The Illinois overtime attorneys and Chicago FLSA attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against Banks and real-estate companies for misclassifying appraisers or loan officers as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Mt. Prospect and Arlington Hts. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, McHenry Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Skokie and Rolling Meadows overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.