Labor / Employment, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Supreme Court

If Unpaid Interns Don’t Like Their Bosses, They’ll Hate Justice Alito

If you were hoping to spend a year with no pay helping a premier Internet publication write up a sighting of Amanda Bynes at Shake Shack, you may soon be out of luck.

On the heels of Judge William Pauley ruling in favor of unpaid interns in the entertainment industry, the Internet behemoth that is Gawker Media is the subject of a new class action for its unpaid internships.

Which means this was probably a bad day for them to make jokes about the practice of abusing interns…

As the Voting Rights Act was gutted by Chief Justice Roberts, Gawker featured the grunt work of interns doing the jobs reporters used to do as a punchline. These aren’t necessarily Gawker interns, in fact they probably aren’t, but this may not be the week to make these gags.

I actually love Gawker. Indeed, I’m going to link positively to a Gawker Media piece in this very story (specifically Jezebel, so most of you can jump right to the comments section to hurl invective over how I’m a horrible person because I like women who are smart and have rights and stuff). However, the practice of shafting interns with no pay not only screws over the interns themselves and the unemployed workers displaced in favor of the intern, but also hurts the industry as a whole. A company, like Gawker, relying on unpaid interns has affirmatively closed its hiring process to exclude any employee unable and unwilling to spend a year living in New York for free. Given that these internships lay crucial groundwork for future careers, the industry remains afflicted by the decision to limit access for years to come.

So, good for Judge Pauley for starting to hold employers to the strict reading of labor laws.

Too bad the Court won’t care when one of these cases makes its way to the top.

With all the attention this term focused on the landmark decisions defining the rights of African-Americans and the LGBT community, one group’s impressive string of victories have slid mostly under the radar. That group is the Chamber of Commerce, and they are the 1972 Dolphins of Supreme Court litigation this term. The Constitutional Accountability Center has a report detailing the success of the Chamber of Commerce in shaping the docket itself.

Not that they aren’t making a killing in decisions themselves. In the last few days, the Supreme Court ruled in American Express that companies can force their clients to waive access to class action litigation even if such a waiver functionally robs the client of legal redress.

Then we got Vance, which Elie succinctly described with “Vance basically means that if you are broke and you’ve been dying to smack your partner’s administrative assistant on the ass, go for it.” A few minutes later, the court announced the Nassar decision holding that Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to the heightened standard of but-for causation. Both decisions ignored years of Title VII jurisprudence as Justice Ginsburg pointed out, prompting Justice Alito to give in to his natural impulse to be a complete dick:

The episode wasn’t captured and broadcast a million times on every show on MSNBC because TV cameras aren’t allowed in the SCOTUS chamber, but the Atlantic’s Garrett Epps saw the whole thing go down and was pretty appalled, calling Alito’s rudeness “inexcusable” and noting that Ginsburg is both older and more senior than Alito. Not that it really matters how old people are in relation to each other; you probably shouldn’t treat anyone that way when they’re just trying to do their fucking job, whether you’re a Supreme Court justice or line cook.

Garrett Epps was there and said:

After both opinions had been read, Ginsburg read aloud a summary of her joint dissent in the two cases. She critiqued the Vance opinion by laying out a “hypothetical” (clearly drawn from a real case) in which a female worker on a road crew is subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker,” who directs the crew’s daily operation but cannot fire or demote those working with him. The Vance opinion, she suggested, would leave the female worker without a remedy.

At this point, Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.”

We’ve all seen this before:

Justice Alito at the State of the Union

Mental note: Try to play poker with Justice Alito next chance I get it. That was Justice Alito petulantly disagreeing with President Obama describing Citizens United as though it would open the floodgates of untraceable corporate money into the political process. Oops.

The Chamber of Commerce loves unpaid interns after all. It’s part of their argument that the minimum wage is just way too difficult to pay. Given the Chamber’s success in managing the docket with the Court as currently constituted, one of these days, an unpaid intern case is going to get to the Supreme Court.

And that’ll be a bad day for those kids running copies of the opinion out to their bosses.

Gawker Lawsuit: Media Company Sued By Unpaid Interns [International Business Times]
Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act [Gawker]
Not So Risky Business: The Chamber of Commerce’s Quiet Success Before the Roberts Court – An Early Report For 2012-2013 [Constitutional Accountability Center]
Justice Alito Was a Real Dick to Justice Ginsburg [Jezebel]
Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness [The Atlantic]

Earlier: Uh-Oh! Federal Judge Says We Might Have to Start Paying Interns
Morning Docket: 06.24.13
Non-Sequiturs: 06.24.13

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