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Former Def Jam Intern Brings Wage Claim

NEW YORK — Universal Music Group Inc. (UMG), the parent company of Def Jam Recordings and Motown Records, faces a putative collective action in New York federal court. This collective action lawsuit is another in a growing trend of unpaid interns suing their former “employer” for failure to pay minimum wage and overtime. In this case, a former unpaid intern claims UMG violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York labor law when it misclassified the employees as interns.

UMG Intern Claims

The current lawsuit is not the first intern-brought claim against UMG. UMG faced a separate wage lawsuit from a former Bad Boy Entertainment Inc. intern in August 2013. The interns in the Bad Boy lawsuit claimed they were forced to run errands and gift wrap presents for employees as part of their intern duties. That case was voluntarily dismissed, meaning the intern requested the court close the case before trial; it is unclear if the company settled with the interns.

In the current lawsuit, William Stokley III, alleges the music company has been misclassifying interns since June 2008. Stokley interned twice with UMG for about 14 months between June 2009 and January 2011. His internships were with Def Jam and Motown. During his internship, he claims he created press kits, ran errands, interviewed artists, and worked record release parties. Stokley believes these were duties that should have been assigned to regular employees and resulted in free labor for the record companies. Stokley also claims he frequently worked 40 hours a week and sometimes more. Despite the hours and the tasks he performed, he claims he was never paid minimum wage or overtime, he did not receive class credit, and he did not gain any academic or vocational training.

Regular Employee Duties

The FLSA allows for unpaid internships, but the internships must satisfy certain requirements to qualify for the wage exemption. One of those requirements is that the unpaid intern does not displace or do the work of a regular employee. An internship is meant to be educational. However, the work regular employees perform is likely either administrative or would need some level of training or experience and is not educational in nature. For instance, running errands, handling mailings, or answering phones can be considered administrative tasks a regular employee might handle. Tasks like creating materials for immediate use, like interviews and press kits, are also usually assigned to employees. These tasks might provide experience in how companies function, but they lack an educational component similar to that of a classroom and should be assigned to regular, paid employees, not interns.

If you are or were an unpaid intern in the last few years and you believe your responsibilities were more like that of a regular employee, you may be entitled to wages and possibly overtime. Contact our experienced team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 to discuss your situation. Or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form and our knowledgeable legal team will evaluate your case. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement.

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