Martina McBride’s Husband, Blackbird Studio Found Guilty of Retaliation in Unpaid Intern Lawsuit
Martina McBride's husband John and their renowned recording complex, Blackbird Studio, have been found guilty of retaliating against a former employee who reported what he claimed were illegal working conditions at the recording studio. The guilty verdict brings with it a required payment of nearly $500,000, Fox 17 Nashville reports.
In 2018, former Blackbird Studio operations manager Richard Hanson sued the McBrides and the recording studio, alleging that the country star and her producer husband treated unpaid interns unfairly over the course of the five years that Hanson worked at Blackbird Studio. Hanson's lawsuit also claimed that John McBride fired Hanson after Hanson notified the McBrides that he had filed the original lawsuit about their treatment of interns.
Hanson claimed that unpaid Blackbird Studio interns were subjected to unfair treatment and forced to run an array of personal errands for the McBrides, including grocery shopping and cleaning bathrooms. He also alleged that, in once instance, an intern was asked to respond to a possible intruder at the couple's home and given a handgun to take along, even though the intern had no experience with firearms.
"It appeared that the primary beneficiaries of [the McBride's] internship program were [the McBrides] rather than the unpaid interns," Hanson stated in his lawsuit. "Defendants made clear to [Hanson] that its unpaid internship program was a means to get free labor that it would otherwise have to pay employees to perform."
Hanson said that the McBrides' actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and that his firing violated the Tennessee Public Protection Act, as he claimed it was done in retaliation. He sued for $1 million in addition to back pay, benefits, front pay and other damages.
Blackbird Studio serves as a recording home for major names, including Alabama, Ed Sheeran, the White Stripes and Taylor Swift. When the lawsuit was made public, the McBrides denied the charges made against them. "John and I have created a culture at Blackbird that is familial and supportive of everyone who walks through its doors," Martina McBride said at the time.
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