Viacom has agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought against it by former interns. This will at least put an end to one cloud which hung over Sumner Redstone’s company, now in the midst of across the board layoffs due to financial woes.
The settlement puts an end to a class action suit first brought by former MTV intern Casey Ojeda in August 2013. More than 1, 000 plaintiffs were included in the suit. The settlement comes to little more than $6, 000 per plaintiff after lawyer’s fees.
Much has been made in recent years about the problems facing America’s unpaid interns. In a long standing tradition, young people who want to learn a trade or get ahead will basically volunteer to be a shlepper for a company. Many college students do this for law firms and financial firms on their summer breaks.
Hollywood is famous for taking advantage of the interns, making them do all sorts of menial tasks on the sets of movies or back at the offices on the premise that the kids are getting to learn something and a head start at possibly getting a job with the studio someday.
But now interns in all professions have been complaining that the practice is nothing more than a tool with which employers skirt minimum wage laws.
Viacom released a statement saying, “We are pleased to conclude this litigation. Viacom’s popular internship program has helped thousands of students launch careers in the entertainment business and beyond. We are proud of our efforts — not only do we fully comply with all applicable educational requirements, but Viacom’s interns also take part in a unique, in-house educational program designed to broaden their experience and help them learn from senior executives across the company.”