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Former Hearst interns can’t pursue class action, thanks to Dukes

Judge rules the unpaid interns don’t meet commonality and predominance standards

Once again, the specter of Wal-Mart v. Dukes has stopped a class action in its tracks.

This time it’s the unpaid intern train that’s been stopped from a-rollin’. A slew of suits brought by unpaid interns at media companies and elsewhere has cropped up in the past couple of years, receiving a lot of attention from the press. One such suit was led by Xuedan Wang, a former intern at Harper’s Bazaar magazine, who sued Hearst Corp., claiming that its internships violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as N.Y. state labor laws.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer ruled that the case could not proceed as a class action, saying that the interns failed to meet the standard set by the Supreme Court in Dukes—they did not adequately show commonality and predominance. The interns worked for different magazines and performed different duties at those publications.

"To mix a metaphor, while half a loaf is better than none, plaintiffs' argument here just doesn't cut the mustard," Baer wrote in his decision.

The story doesn’t necessarily end here—interns can still pursue their claims individually. However, Thomson Reuters reports that since the interns only claim that they are entitled to minimum wage, the low payouts they are likely to receive if they win make the individual cases somewhat unattractive to plaintiffs’ lawyers.

 

Read more about the travails of unpaid interns on InsideCounsel:

Externs who received credit can’t sue for wages

Unpaid internships pose a litigation risk for employers

Unpaid Huffington Post bloggers lose appeals court bid

Hearst lawyers email former unpaid interns seeking stories of “valued opportunities”

“Black Swan” intern suit may get bigger

Labor: When unpaid interns become unpaid employees

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