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NBCUniversal agrees to settle 'Saturday Night Live' interns' lawsuit

NBCUniversal agrees to settle 'Saturday Night Live' interns' lawsuit
NBC-Universal has settled a lawsuit filed by unpaid interns for back wages and punitive damages. Here, Kristin Wiig and Seth Meyers appear on the show's "Weekend Update" in 2012. (Dana Edelson / NBC)

NBCUniversal and a group of former "Saturday Night Live" interns have reached an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit contending the interns should have been paid for their work.

The $6.4-million settlement, subject to court approval, will be shared by thousands of "SNL" interns who worked in New York and California.

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In documents filed with New York's Southern District Court, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Comcast-owned NBCUniversal had agreed to special bonuses for the litigants who led the class-action lawsuit, first filed in July 2013.

While those individuals would receive $5,000 to $10,000 each, other unpaid interns who qualify to be included in the settlement may see as little as $500 apiece.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys had contended that the internships involved doing work that would ordinarily be done by paid workers, by "improperly classifying them as non-employee interns exempt from federal and state minimum wage ... requirements."

NBC declined to comment.

The original complaint involved New York interns Jesse Moore and Monet Eliastam, and grew to include plaintiffs from other states.

The interns asserted that the work they did on the late-night comedy paid them "no compensation or compensation at a rate less than the applicable minimum wage law," and that they were doing work for which wages were appropriate.

The "SNL" interns lawsuit is one of several that have roiled the entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, where unpaid internships have long been a cost-saver for TV networks, movie studios, production companies, music labels and talent agencies -- and also a foot-in-the-door opportunity for ambitious Hollywood hopefuls.

The glamorous-sounding positions might involve assisting a filmmaker or record producer, but typically require the intern to make coffee, photocopy documents, run errands or make travel arrangements for company principals.

In similar court cases, interns have sued the 21st Century Fox subsidiary Fox Searchlight Pictures, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records and the publishing houses Conde Nast and Hearst Corp.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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