LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A former unpaid intern is suing the LA Clippers after he claims the team misclassified him and other unpaid interns in an effort to reduce labor costs.
Frank Cooper, who worked as a fan relations intern, claims LAC Basketball Club Inc. and the Sterling Family Trust violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor laws.
Cooper and other unpaid interns were required to do the same work as paid employees, but without financial compensation, according to a complaint filed June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Cooper claims he worked 40 to 50 hours per week during his unpaid internship from Sept. 28, 2012, until Nov. 17, 2012.
While Cooper did not have a set schedule, he was required to work as needed during game gays, which was frequently in excess of eight hours per game day, according to the suit.
Cooper claims he performed various tasks, including staffing the fan booths throughout Staples Center, organizing basketball clinics with fans, organizing children's camps, supervising autograph sessions with players, performing office work and general office management.
The defendants did not provide Cooper with academic or vocational training, according to the suit.
"Plaintiff's unpaid work for defendants is part of a broader trend where employees are being misclassified as unpaid 'interns' in an effort by employers to avoid paying wages as required by state laws and FLSA," the complaint states. "These programs purport to be training programs, but provide little value to the worker while enriching the employer through the provision of free labor."
Without the contributions of Cooper and the other unpaid intern, the Clippers would have had to hire additional employees or require current staff to work additional hours, according to the suit.
"The employer cannot derive any immediate advantage from the intern's work or require the intern to do the work of regular employees," the complaint states. "Defendants' failure to pay interns for years runs afoul of basic wage-and-hour laws."
Cooper is seeking all unpaid minimum wages and liquidated damages; statutory penalties; continuation wages; restitutionary disgorgement; pre-judgment interest; and general, special and consequential damages. He is represented by Nicholas Ranallo of Nicholas Ranallo Law Offices; and Maurice Pianko of the Pianko Law Group PLLC.
This is not the first lawsuit filed by unpaid interns in recent past. In 2011, former unpaid interns on the film "Black Swan" sued Fox Searchlight Pictures in class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that Fox should have paid interns at least minimum wage because they were essentially regular employees. Fox has appealed the decision.
On June 2, Maiko Maya King, Donald Sterling's former personal assistant, filed a lawsuit against Sterling and the Clippers after she claimed he withheld pay and eventually fired her when she refused to perform sex acts and complained about racist remarks he made about her children.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. King claims she had an affair with Sterling from 2005 until 2011.
The case has been assigned to District Judge John F. Walter.
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case number: 2:14-cv-04445
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.