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Ex-'Wendy Williams Show' Intern Sues, Alleging Wage Violations

By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 14, 2014 11:46 AM

A former intern with "The Wendy Williams Show" is suing the production company Lionsgate over the fact that he and others should have been paid for their work.

Anthony Tart, in a potential class action filed in federal court, claims that he spent his unpaid internship doing menial tasks like washing dishes and taking out the trash. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tart's proposed class action would encompass only those "former and current interns" on Wendy Williams' show, which he estimates at about 100 interns.

Will Tart succeed in getting Lionsgate to pay up?

Unpaid Internship Suits

Apparently the entertainment industry is really terrible about giving their interns either wages or something educational to do. The U.S. Department of Labor has been pretty clear that unpaid interns can't just be a free substitute for normal employees. Interns who aren't paid a dime must at least be gaining the sort of skills they might in an educational environment. And if your only responsibilities are essentially the same as a janitor's, you may not be getting that.

In his federal suit, Tart claims that since 2008, Lionsgate has treated unpaid interns like employees -- minus the pay. Tart asserts his own short stint as an intern had him:

  • Washing dishes,
  • Getting coffee,
  • Picking up art supplies,
  • Stocking printers,
  • Throwing out garbage, and
  • Creating a tape library.

You may be tempted to say "Boo hoo, that's what interns do." However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an intern is treated for all intents and purposes like an employee, he or she must be paid at least minimum wage for each hour of work. Tart wants back payment for the dozens of unpaid hours he and others worked as current or former interns of Williams' show, using both federal and state minimum wage laws to support his claims.

Certification as a Class

Before Tart's unpaid intern claims can proceed as a class action suit, the class of "Wendy Williams Show" interns must be certified by a federal judge. This mainly involves finding that the class shares common claims and that Tart can adequately represent the class.

Just last year, unpaid interns at NBCUniversal filed a very similar proposed class action.

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