2nd Circuit Employment Law News - U.S. Second Circuit
U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Employment Law Category

Unpaid internships are some of the most miserable, abusive, and exploitative forms of labor around -- and you can go ahead and take advantage of them again, so long as you meet the new standard announced this month by the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit's ruling reverses a 2013 district court decision that unpaid interns could file a class action for back wages and overtime. That decision caused many companies to curtail or eliminate their unpaid internship programs. Now, however, the court has proposed seven non-exclusive considerations used to determine when an intern might be entitled to pay, potentially opening the door for a return to widespread unpaid internships.

The Second Circuit heard arguments last Friday on whether contract lawyers are entitled to overtime pay. "Legal practice" is exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime rules. However, one lawyer argued that his document review job was so rote and tedious it does not amount to the practice of law, meaning he's entitled to overtime.

The case presents an odd situation where a lawyer stands to make more money -- perhaps substantially more -- should his labor be considered too simple to be the practice of law.

A tipster who reported his firm's securities violations before the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act cannot collect a whistleblower's reward under that Act, the Second Circuit has ruled.

Over a period of five years, Larry Stryker repeatedly informed the SEC about questionable practices at his firm, Advanced Technologies Group, leading to an enforcement action in 2009 and an eventual $20 million settlement.

Under Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers can collect 10 to 30 percent of the money recouped from a successful SEC enforcement action based on their information. In 2011, Stryker filed for just such an award. The SEC refused, arguing that since he offered information before the passage of Dodd-Frank, he was not entitled to to the $2 to $6 million that would otherwise be his share under the Act.

More Ex-Franchisees Dismissed in 6-Year-Old NYC Labor Case

Between the late '80s and the late '90s, Peter Glazman recruited a variety of people to be "franchisees" for his courier business, in which his company delivered packages around New York City. Glazman's franchisees basically paid for everything themselves: a white van, "training" fees, "beeper" fees, insurance, taxes, gas, uniforms, and on and on.

The plaintiffs in this case are several franchisees -- many of whom recently emigrated from Eastern Europe and spoke limited English -- who claimed that they would be promised a 60 percent commission from each package delivery. There was never really any accounting of that, and Glazman claimed there was never any agreement to pay them that.

NBC, Interns Agree to Settlement Over Unpaid Internships

Back in 2013, several interns sued NBCUniversal, alleging unfair labor practices. Basically, they claimed NBC was using unpaid or underpaid interns to do the actual work that properly paid employees should be doing. The lawsuit struck in the middle of a nationwide debate about the role of the "unpaid intern."

Yesterday, NBC Universal agreed to a $6.4 million settlement with the interns. It now goes to Judge Ronald Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for approval, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Statements About 'Fitting In' Raised an Inference of Discrimination

Frederick Abrams was a detective with the Connecticut Department of Public Safety who'd tried unsuccessfully since 1998 to join the Department's "Major Crimes Van." The Van unit is an elite squad of detectives that solve major cases; membership in the Van is considered prestigious.

After years of trying -- but failing -- to get into the Van, Abrams sued the Department, claiming that he was denied a job in the Van unit because of his race. Abrams is black.

Relevant here, the District Court for the District of Connecticut granted summary judgment for the Department on the employment discrimination claims. The Second Circuit, however, ruled earlier this month that Abrams' case could move forward.

Fox Searchlight has much to be thankful for right about now, with the Second Circuit granting its motions to appeal both the class certification, and the district judge's grant of summary judgment in favor of the interns, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Two cases, starting in the Southern District of New York, involving questions of whether interns should actually be considered employees are making their way up the appellate ladder -- and companies all over the country are watching closely.

Who knew that those, now ubiquitous, tip jars everywhere in coffee shops could become a federal case? Well they did (on two occasions, but we'll get to that later). Last Thursday, the Second Circuit, in a brief five-page opinion, affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment to Starbucks.

The intern lawsuits are still at it -- both have different outcomes so far -- but are seeking the same thing -- immediate appeal.

Hearst & Black Swan

In a lawsuit involving magazine interns, a former magazine intern sued her former employer, Hearst, under New York and Federal Law. The Southern District of New York denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denied class certification.

NY Media Intern Battle Headed for Interlocutory Appeal to 2nd Cir

Is this the most interesting employment law battle happening in the country today?

We certainly think so.

There are the unpaid Black Swan movie production interns suing Fox Searchlight. There are magazine interns suing over unpaid internships at Hearst and underpaid internships at Conde Nast. There is even a lawsuit against Atlantic Records and Warner Music, filed this week, according to Reuters.

With an economy stuffed with unemployed, desperate recent graduates, and companies reluctant to hire paid labor, we can only imagine that there will be even more to come.