Sirius XM Radio
Melissa Tierney v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., Case No. 14-CV-2926(VEC)
Former Sirius XM Intern files Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Unpaid Wages
New York, NY – Former Sirius XM Intern Melissa Tierney filed a class action complaint in the Southern District of New York on Friday, April 25, 2014, alleging that she was an unpaid intern and failed to receive any educational experience or any wages while working for The Howard Stern Show.
“The only thing I learned when I worked for Sirius XM was what and when Howard [Stern] and Robin [Quivers] wanted their breakfast and snacks,” according to Tierney, who alleges that there were numerous other interns similarly situated throughout Sirius XM. “Howard likes to have specific food at a specific time and from specific restaurants. It was not exactly an educational experience learning how to succeed in radio.”
“Far too often, hard working individuals like Melissa take these internships under the belief that it will advance their careers and provide them with educational experiences,” according to Tierney’s attorney, Jeffrey K. Brown of Leeds Brown Law, P.C. “However, they get stuck running errands, grabbing breakfast orders, and standing by the copier for no wages, then get no job offer at the end. The only benefit in that situation is for the company that gets free labor.”
The complaint alleges that Tierney was an unpaid intern at Sirius XM’s New York office from August 2011 until December 2011 for The Howard Stern Show. Teirney alleges that the job duties she performed were not educational and included tasks regularly assigned to employees, like running errands, placing orders, obtaining breakfast orders, delivering food items to on-air personality and office staff, reviewing news clips, reporting to on-air personalities, compiling data, and obtaining signatures from guests. Tierney alleges that there were other workers similarly situated throughout Sirius XM.
“This is institutionalized free labor and something that our laws were designed to protect against. We see this as a failure to pay earned wages case,” said, Lloyd Ambinder from Virginia & Ambinder, LLP, who is also one of Tierney’s attorneys.
Unpaid interns can constitute ’employees’ under New York labor law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and they are eligible to sue for unpaid wages going back six years, according to recent court decisions. In June, a federal judge found that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated labor laws when it used unpaid interns for production tasks on “Black Swan,” the 2010 film starring Natalie Portman. Other high profile internship cases have been filed and are presently being litigated against: Sony, Viacom/MTV, Atlantic Records, Donna Karan, and Madison Square Garden, to name a few.
Although Ms. Tierney received academic credits for her work at Sirius XM, attorney Brown said the law required her to be paid. “The bottom line is that just because you agreed to work as an intern and you received academic credit from your college doesn’t mean you gave up your right to be paid.”
“My mom says it all the time: ‘I can’t believe I paid college tuition for you to get Howard Stern’s breakfast every morning for a semester and you didn’t get paid a dime,’” explained Tierney. “I feel like I was taken advantage of because I wanted to work in the radio and music industry. And this is how I thought I could get a foot in the door. But the company was the only one that got the benefit.”
“Corporations must be held accountable for their exploitation of young people entering the workforce,” said Ambinder. “These highly profitable companies can unequivocally afford to pay all of their workers a decent wage – or at the bare minimum wage.”
Brown added: “College students and recent graduates are the most vulnerable workers. Desperate to gain employment, they will often accept work without compensation in the hope of one day gaining fulltime employment with a company.”
“Unpaid internships create a vicious cycle and stall upward mobility,” Brown said. “People with means can afford to take them – to live at home or borrow the money from parents. But what happens to those without means? How can those workers enter the work force when they can’t afford to get by without earning a wage?”
The case pending in the Southern District of New York is captioned Tierney v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., 14-CV-2926(VEC).