United States District Court, S.D. New York
KYLE GRANT, individually and on behalf of other persons similarly situated who were employed by WARNER MUSIC GROUP CORP. and ATLANTIC RECORDING CORPORATION, Plaintiffs,
WARNER MUSIC GROUP CORP., and ATLANTIC RECORDING CORPORATION, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
PAUL G. GARDEPHE, District Judge.
In this putative collective action, Plaintiff Kyle Grant and several opt-in plaintiffs assert minimum wage and overtime claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. Plaintiffs claim that they performed work as employees of Defendants but were misclassified as exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements.
Plaintiffs now seek to disseminate court-authorized notice of this case to members of the putative collective action. See Dkt. No. 28. Defendants oppose Plaintiffs' application, arguing that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated (1) the existence of an unlawful nationwide internship policy; or (2) that they are similarly situated to each other or to members of the putative collective. (Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 31) at 11-22)
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion for court-authorized notice will be granted.
On June 27, 2013, Plaintiff Kyle Grant commenced this collective action on behalf of himself and others similarly situated against Warner Music Group Corporation ("WMG") and Atlantic Recording Corporation ("Atlantic"). (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1) ¶ 1) Grant, a former student intern for WMG subsidiary Warner Bros. Records ("WBR"), alleges that Defendants misclassified him and other similarly situated persons as unpaid interns exempt from statutory minimum wage and overtime requirements. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 32-33) The misclassification purportedly reflects a nationwide employment policy that governs internship programs at all of Defendants' U.S. locations. (Id. 41 22)
Grant interned in WBR's Radio Promotions Department in Manhattan from August 2012 until April 2013. (Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2) ¶ 3; Cmplt. ¶¶ 10, 34, 38) Grant typically worked five days a week from 9:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., for a total of approximately fifty hours per week, but he received no compensation. (Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2) ¶¶ 4-6; Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1) ¶¶ 33-35, 37-38) His work consisted of routine office tasks, such as answering telephones, making photocopies, making deliveries, preparing coffee, and organizing and cleaning the office. (Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2); Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1) ¶ 36) Although Grant was a student at the time, he claims that he received no academic credit for his internship. (Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2) ¶ 12)
In support of their motion, Plaintiffs have submitted declarations from Grant and three opt-in plaintiffs who interned for Defendants or their subsidiaries. Opt-in plaintiff Samuel Westerkon interned five days a week in Atlantic's Product Development and Business Analytics Department in Manhattan between June 2012 and August 2012. (Westerkon Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-3) ¶ 3) His duties included preparing business analytics, proofreading, and assisting in product development. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 7) Westerkon asserts that he performed the same work as paid employees in his department. (Id. ¶ 9) Opt-in plaintiff Evan Brieff interned in WBR's "Promotions and Video Departments" from September 2012 to May 2013. (Brieff Decl. (Dkt. No. 35-1) ¶ 3) Brieff worked from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. two days a week; among other things, Brieff worked on software, answered phones, and made photocopies. (Id.) Brief, like Westerkon, claims to have "performed some of the same work as paid employees." (Id. ¶ 9) Danielle Grubb was an intern in the "Urban Section of the A&R Department" in November 2013. (Grubb Decl. (Dkt. No. 35-2) ¶ 3) She worked two days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Her duties consisted of, inter alia, answering phones and other administrative work. (Id. ¶ 6) Grubb also claims to have done work that was also performed by paid employees. (Id. ¶ 8)
All of the declarants deny receiving academic credit for at least part of their internships, and all claim to have received little to no supervision. (See, e.g., Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2) 12 ("I did not receive any academic credit, and my school did not oversee my internship at WMG."), ¶ 9 ("Throughout my internship, my supervisors exercised very little oversight over me, and basically gave me my assignments and expected me to complete them on my own.")) The declarants also claim to have personal knowledge of other interns who performed similar duties for Defendants and who likewise did not receive compensation or academic credit. (Grant Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-2) IN 12-14; Westerkon Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-3) ¶¶ 13-15; Brieff Decl. (Dkt. No. 35-1) ¶¶ 13-15; Grubb Decl. (Dkt. No. 35-2) ¶¶ 12)
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants operate a centralized, nationwide internship program. In support of this allegation, Plaintiffs have submitted excerpts from WMG's website that describe the internship program. To obtain an internship at WMG or one of its subsidiaries, a student must apply through a centralized website, regardless of the department or office location in which the student is seeking an internship. (WMG Internship Description, Declaration of Lloyd Ambinder ("Ambinder Decl.") (Dkt. No. 30-5), Ex. E)
The WMG website emphasizes that internships are unpaid, and sets forth policies that are applicable to all WMG interns, including a requirement that interns devote a minimum of fifteen hours per week to their internship. (Id.) Descriptions of particular types of internships are identical, regardless of the department or the location of the internship. (Ambinder Decl. (Dkt. Nos. 30-6 to 30-12), Ex. G 1-6 (identical Internet internship postings for California, Illinois, Miami, Nashville, New York, and Utah)) WMG and its subsidiaries also use a standard application for all internships. (WMG Internship Application, Ambinder Decl. (Dkt. No. 30-6), Ex. F)
I. COLLECTIVE ACTIONS AND ...