CBS and David Letterman Slapped With Lawsuit From Intern

Photo Credit: xandert from morguefile.com

Photo Credit: xandert from morguefile.com

Mallory Musallam, 26, a former intern is suing CBS and David Letterman’s WorldWide Pants Production Company.

Mallory interned at the show from September to December 2008. She accused the defendants of “violating minimum-wage and overtime laws.” Mallory filed the lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court on Thursday “on behalf of every unpaid Late Show intern from the past six years.”

According to Deadline, Mallory claims that the defendants intentionally minimized their labor costs by giving work to unpaid interns instead of hiring additional employees or paying regular staff overtime to do it. She stated that she worked more than 40 hours a week but did not receive any payment or vocational training in exchange.

It’s easy to say Mallory is only suing because she wants money. However, Mallory has an impressive resume. In the past she had interned at Entertainment Tonight, The Insider and W Magazine. She did not file lawsuits against them. If Mallory is money hungry I believe she would have sued them as well.

CBS stated that it will defend itself against Mallory’s claims. CBS spokesman said “This lawsuit is part of a nationwide trend of class action lawyers attacking internship opportunities provided by companies in the media and entertainment industry. We pride ourselves on providing valuable internship experiences, and we take seriously all of our obligations under relevant labor and employment laws. We intend to vigorously defend against the claims.”

Some questions that come to mind are:

Does Mallory have a case against CBS and Letterman? Especially since she claims this happened in 2008 and she decided to file the lawsuit now?

CBS mentioned that interns have a history of targeting major entertainment media companies/franchises. Is this true?

What are the steps that interns and the companies offering internships, can take in order to avoid these unfortunate situations?

Thankfully, attorney Eric Schwartzreich, has the answers. Mr. Schwartzreich and his firm have been featured on Dateline and 48 Hours, as well as been covered by local and state media outlets and newspapers. Mr. Schwartzreich has been mentioned in articles in the ABA Journal, the Daily Business Review, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and other newspapers and periodicals throughout the country and world.

He said: “It’s no secret that in class action lawsuits the parties that make the bulk of the money are usually the attorneys. An internship, is typically just that an internship. The opportunity to wow or impress hopefully a future boss, with emphasis on the words impress hopefully and future boss. Internships are mostly unpaid unless there is an agreement or a contract otherwise. These particular law suits are currently the soup du jour and have been appearing on the menu more frequently. The legal issue comes down to whether or not they were classified incorrectly, were they employees, or were they interns. That will determine whether these actions have a chance in hell. If the plaintiff are opportunist(s) and has filed similar lawsuits in the past certainly that will be looked upon negatively in any settlement negotiations. If you have deep pockets it will always be difficult to protect your self from lawsuits, But companies, should have clear internship letters, or employment contracts designating  what were everyone’s roles and responsibilities are. they need to follow the letter of the law. They need to distinguish between employees and interns. It is likely that CBS will fight this lawsuit all the way, and demonstrate that these opportunities were not employment but valuable internships. and as a result of said lawsuit and the latest court rulings CBS may take a deep look in the mirror and implement more stringent  internal policies and procedures.”

Do you believe Mallory’s accusations against CBS and Letterman?

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