Thursday, June 11, 2015

WMG Agrees To Intern Lawsuit Settlement

Warner Music Group Corp. has agreed to pay about $4.2 million to resolve a putative class and collective action brought by former interns who claimed they were unlawfully denied minimum wage, the plaintiffs told a New York federal court.

Named plaintiffs Kyle Grant and Justin Henry filed a motion for preliminary approval of a deal that would resolve both federal and state wage claims after nine months of settlement negotiations, according to court documents.

Warner Music in a statement said it was pleased to settle.

"We continue to stand by our internship program as an invaluable educational experience for students looking to obtain hands-on, real-world training," it said.

Lawyers for the interns may seek up to 18.6 percent of the settlement amount as attorney fees, or $787,500.

Kyle Grant
According to a Newsweek story, Kyle Grant was still living in a Bronx homeless shelter when he started interning at Warner Music Group (WMG) in August 2012. The gig was unpaid. He’d already worked at JAMBOX Entertainment, a much smaller music production company. He was planning to launch his own record label one day. A stint in Warner’s Music Promotions Department seemed a pretty great way to learn the basics.

Most days, however, Grant was expected to fetch drinks for two different vice presidents. He also took lunch orders and took clothing to be dry-cleaned. “Things that have nothing to do with working in radio promotions,” he said. “Oh, man, I even took people’s luggage. When you need to repair luggage and you take it to Louis Vuitton? I was picking out jewelry and things like that.”

Unbeknownst to Grant, a set of federal Department of Labor guidelines—known as “Fact Sheet #71”—stipulates that an unpaid internship must be “for the benefit of the intern” rather than the employer. “The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern,” the document states.

“I was told if you want to be an intern here, there are small things you’ve got to do,” he said, “like coming in earlier, leaving later, be the first one here, be the last one out, that type of thing.” So he’d arrive by 9 a.m.—he had to make sure coffee was ready for his bosses—and would frequently stay in the office until 8 or 9 p.m.

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