NEW YORK — A former unpaid intern, Casey Ojeda, was granted conditional collective action certification recently. The former intern filed a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against MTV Networks Enterprises Inc., its music production company, and its parent company, Viacom Inc., for wage law violations. The New York federal judge that granted certification also allowed Ojeda to add wage claims under California law.
The former unpaid intern claims MTV had a policy of replacing paid employees with unpaid interns. Unpaid interns cannot replace nor do the work of regular employees. This is would essentially provide the company with free labor because unpaid interns are exempt from wage-and-hours laws.
Ojeda provided enough evidence of MTV’s practices to convince the judge that he and others could be victims of an unlawful policy. He must now begin seeking additional unpaid interns to “opt-in” to the lawsuit. There are an estimated 1,000 potential class members spanning the last three years. However, the judge only granted conditional collective action certification, which means he is withholding final certification judgment until both sides have submitted a joint notice to potential class members.
Plaintiffs with wage claims who believe their employer has a practice of violating wage laws, and who believe there are many other potential plaintiffs, must first file their own lawsuit. If they want to include other plaintiffs, they must also seek certification for a collective action or a class action.
A certified collective action, even a conditional one, requires an opt-in notice be sent to all potential class members. This notice will inform potential class members of the claim, the timelines, and their rights. An opt-in notice, like the one in this case, means potential class members have to take action in order to join the class. If they decide to join then they will be bound by the final decision. However, if they choose not to join the collective action then they can later bring their own claim, but they will not benefit from the decision of the collective action.
Class actions are slightly different from collective actions and their certifications require more evidence and an opt-out notice. Opt-out notices automatically include potential class members. Those class members must take action to drop out of the class action or they will be bound by the decision.
If you or someone you know is a current or former unpaid intern doing the work of a paid employee, you may have a wage claim. You may even be eligible to join this collective action. Call our experienced team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 to discuss your situation and rights. Or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page and our experienced 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.