Court Conditionally Certifies Unpaid Intern Collective Under FLSA, According to Outten & Golden LLP

Outten & Golden LLP - Rachel Bien & Elizabeth Wagoner
July 13, 2012

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer ruled late Thursday that a federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit filed on behalf of all unpaid interns who worked in Hearst’s Magazines division since February 2009 can go forward as a collective action.  

The class action complaint, filed by Outten & Golden LLP on Feb. 2, 2012 on behalf of Xuedan Wang, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern, accuses Hearst of illegally failing to pay interns for their work and taking unlawful deductions by requiring interns to purchase academic credit as a condition of employment. Ms. Wang regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, and sometimes as many as 55 hours per week, without compensation.

The Court made a preliminary determination that unpaid interns at Hearst are “similarly situated” because Hearst made a uniform determination that they are not “employees,” required them to submit college credit letters, and used them to perform entry-level work with little supervision.

The Court’s Order means that interns who worked for Hearst Magazines within the past three years will soon receive a Court-authorized notice of the lawsuit and information about how to join it to protect their rights under federal law.

The Court also rejected Hearst’s argument that the case could not be certified as a class action under the New York Labor Law, explaining that Hearst’s arguments were “premature.” At a later phase in the litigation, Outten & Golden will ask the Court to certify a New York Labor Law class of unpaid interns who have worked for Hearst since Feb. 2, 2006.

Rachel Bien, of Outten & Golden LLP, said, “We are pleased that the Court agreed that this case should move forward to the merits and that interns deserve to be notified about the lawsuit and have the chance to join it.”

The case is Xuedan Wang v. The Hearst Corporation, in the Southern District of New York, Class Action Complaint No. 12 Civ. 0793.

Outten & Golden also has filed two other lawsuits on behalf of unpaid interns, Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., No. 11 Civ. 6784 (S.D.N.Y.), which is in discovery, and Bickerton v. Charles Rose and Charlie Rose, Inc., No. Index No. 650780/2012 (N.Y. Supreme), which was recently filed.

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Attorney Contacts: Rachel Bien Outten & Golden LLP, New York, 212.245.1000