Gawker claims former interns are too late to sue over pay, lawyers ask for summary judgment (Docs)
It’s about time, I suppose, that Gawker received some good legal news. It’s just a shame that news comes at the expense of the group of former interns suing the company over their unpaid labor.
Late on Friday -- right on the final extended deadline previously set by the court -- lawyers for Nick Denton’s blog empire issued a “motion for summary judgement” -- that is, a request for the judge to decide on the interns' case without trial. Gawker is seeking to have the suit tossed out on the basis that all but one of the would-be plaintiffs failed to file within the three year statute of limitations set by the Fair Labor Standards Act. (All documents embedded below)
The Fair Labor Standards Act claims of the opt-in plaintiffs are all time-barred, and named plaintiff Aulistar Mark not only brings his claims too late but signed a written release and waiver during his internship, releasing any claims arising from the internship and waiving any right to participate as a class member or representative in any collective or class action.
On the merits, the undisputed facts demonstrate that both of the remaining named plaintiffs, Mark and Andrew Hudson, had precisely the sort of hands-on, educational internships that the Second Circuit endorsed in Glatt. Both were in school at the time; Mark received academic credit, and Hudson had it available to him. Both were pursuing journalism degrees, both interned in the summer between school years, and both received practical experience that complemented but did not displace the work of any paid employee. The undisputed facts – taken almost entirely from their own deposition testimony – confirm that these plaintiffs had enormously beneficial educational experiences that far outweighed any benefit Gawker Media LLC (“Gawker”) received from their minimal work product. Gawker is entitled to summary judgment on the merits of their claims.
As for that one remaining intern -- Aulistar Mark -- Gawker claims he signed a waiver back in 2010 promising never to sue the company over his internship. According to Gawker's legal filing, the signed waiver read...
To the fullest extent permitted by law, by agreeing to the terms of this Internship Policy, I waive any right to commence, be a party to, or be an actual or putative class member of any class or collective action arising out of or relating to my internship with Gawker Media LLC or its affiliated companies.
It’s important to note that just because Gawker says something doesn’t make it true -- ain’t that the understatement of the decade? -- but, on the face of it, the company's lawyers make a strong argument. Whether it’s strong enough to warrant a dismissal of the suit will depend on Judge Alison J Nathan and also what lawyers for the plaintiffs file next in response to the motion.
In the meantime, Gawker’s attorneys thoughtfully included some extracts from Aulistar Mark’s deposition (also embedded below) allowing us to enjoy unintentional comedy like this exchange where attorneys grill Mark on the valuable experience he gained working at Gawker....
Q. And the next comment she says, "You are gaining very valuable experience and increasing your skill set." Do you agree with that?
A. I did some -- I tried some initial things at Kotaku. Like I did photo editing where I edited a picture of the president of Nintendo on top of a pirate ship. That is not something that I knew how to do before.
If this case tells us anything, it's that you can't pay for that kind of training.
Next up, I hope: attorneys for the plaintiffs hit back with extracts from Nick Denton’s own deposition.