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A federal judge certified a class action lawsuit against MTV and its parent company Viacom on Friday for allegedly violating labor laws in its treatment of interns.
Casey O’Jeda claims that MTV underpaid himself and other interns in violation of federal labor laws. The complaint alleges that interns performed the same work as regular employees and did not receive any formal training or education. As a result, the complaint alleges, they deserve back pay.
O’Jeda worked as an intern for MTV from September 2011 to December 2012. He worked in MTV’s Mobile Development Department and performed humdrum tasks such as coding, updating the website, and creating weekly spreadsheets. He was already skilled at web design and coding prior to the internship.
In certifying the class action, United States District Judge Jesse Furman found that O’Jeda successful made the necessary “modest factual showing” that he and similarly situated individuals were the victims of a company policy that violated that the law. He noted that the threshold was a low one.
The certification would allow anyone who participated in MTV’s internship program in the last three years to join the class action. Unlike normal Rule 23 class action law suits, members to a FLSA representative class action must opt in by filling written consent with the court.
O’Jeda is suing under section 206 of the Fair Labor Standards Act that requires employees to receive minimum wage. The Act defines employment broadly as “to suffer or permit to work.” The judge noted that the defendants could move for decertification after discovery if it turned out that the plaintiffs were not subject to a common company policy.
If the class action succeeds, O’Jeda and other interns would receive minimum wage for the hours that they worked. The three-year statute of limitations, however, limits the size of the potential class and damages.
The lawsuit is the most recent in increasingly common lawsuits by interns against Hollywood companies. Last year, two interns who worked on the Black Swan won against Fox on summary judgment for being underpaid.
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