A Nashville jury recently rendered a verdict that singer Martina McBride and her husband, sound engineer John McBride, are liable for retaliating against an employee who filed a complaint about their unpaid internship program.
The jury awarded the employee $100,000 in compensatory damages, $59,000 in back pay, and $59,000 in liquidated damages.
The plaintiff worked as the operations manager for five years at Blackbird Studio, the couple's recording studio in Nashville. He alleged that the defendants violated the law by having unpaid interns tear down studio equipment; pick up groceries and takeout food; and clean bathrooms.
The plaintiff argued that the primary beneficiaries of the internship program appeared to be the McBrides rather than the unpaid interns. He claimed the couple made it clear to the employee that the intern program was a means of getting work done for free for which the defendants would otherwise have had to pay wages.
The plaintiff alleged that he was ignored when he voiced his concerns about the program, and that John McBride terminated him an hour after the plaintiff informed the defendants that he had filed an official complaint with the state about Blackbird's intern program.
The plaintiff filed a retaliation suit against the defendants couple in June 2018, claiming violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Tennessee Public Protection Act. Sterling Whitaker "Martina McBride, Husband John Held Liable in Employee Retaliation Lawsuit" tasteofcountry.com (Feb. 14, 2020).