A judge may have thrown out class-action status for the lawsuit against Hearst for using unpaid interns at its magazines, but the disgruntled former coffee-fetchers will continue the fight. "The case of the named plaintiffs and the people who opted into the case will go forward," said Juno Turner, the Outten and Golden lawyer handling the case. That includes the "Norma Rae" of unpaid interns Diana Wang, who interned for Harper's Bazaar, Erin Spencer, a former Cosmopolitan intern, and six others.
By denying class action status for the plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge Harol Baer's ruling bars Turner from representing all unpaid interns at Hearst in the litigation because he didn't think the "class" had enough in common. "Here, while a close question, the commonality requirement is not satisfied because plaintiffs cannot show anything more than a uniform policy of unpaid internship," Baer wrote in his decision, noting that the interns worked for different magazines.
While the case will proceed, the ruling is a big victory for Hearst because they do not face any large class-action settlement (in which, if they case goes against them, they would have to pay damages to anyone who interned for the company without pay) and it greatly reduces the fees the plaintiffs lawyers can expect, which in class-action suits can be a percentage of the damages. Rather than winning a big bundle of class action money, the suit is now about a few summers worth of minimum wages. And, as Pepper Hamilton attorney Richard Reibstein told Reuters, "What lawyer is going to want to do work for that?"
Turner assured The Atlantic Wire that wasn't the case and she is as confident as ever in her plaintiffs' individual cases. "We certainly expect to prevail there," she told The Atlantic Wire.
Plus, the fervor from young people to reform the system hasn't died down much since last February when Wang filed her legal complaint. Although some organizations have reformed their intern programs, just last February Washingtonian had a cover story about the phenomenon perpetual intern. ProPublica has also recently launched an investigation into how many organizations are getting away with not paying young workers. And, for this summer's crop, an NYU Sophomore got over 1,000 signatures from fellow students to get the school to remove unpaid intern postings from its career site.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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