TV news anchor Charlie Rose and the company that produces his PBS show agreed on Thursday to an out-of-court settlement over alleged unpaid wages.
Unpaid intern Lucy Bickerton worked for Rose during the summer of 2008. In her lawsuit, Bickerton claimed that she should have been earning at least minimum wage based on her actual job description.
Bickerton filed a class-action lawsuit, which means that in addition to suing on behalf of herself, there are many other potential plaintiffs out there that have not yet been formally named in legal papers, but can now come forward to file a claim.
According to Yahoo! News, Bickerton alleged that…
“despite New York law requiring unpaid internships to only be allowed in an educational context, the Charlie Rose Show ‘did not provide academic or vocational training.’ “
The New York Times reports that Bickerton’s job duties “included providing background research for Mr. Rose about interview guests, putting together press packets, escorting guests through the studio and cleaning up the green room.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Rose and his production company will cough up back pay to potentially 189 interns (who worked for him in the 2006-2012 time frame) to the tune of about $110 a week up to a maximum of 10 weeks, the somewhat rough equivalent of a college semester.
If the interns had “worked” more than 40 hours in a week, they would have also been eligible for overtime pay, assuming there was sufficient proof.
In a statement, Rose stated he did not “admit any liability or wrongdoing” and that he and his production company reached this agreement to avoid the costs of fighting it in court. Depending upon the circumstances of a case, this is a calculation that many defendants make to cut their losses.
The intern’s lawyers will pocket about $50,000 in legal fees in the settlement. Critics of class-action litigation in general suggest that the attorneys in class-action litigation are the only ones that come out ahead.
Bickerton sued under the New York minimum wage law which has a more generous statute of limitations than the equivalent federal law.
Similar cases are pending against other media companies. According to Rachel Bien, the intern’s lawyer, “the misuse of unpaid interns as replacements for regular workers is widespread across the media landscape because the practice saves money,” the New York Daily News noted.
In addition to the PBS show, Rose co-anchors CBS This Morning.