• Legal Issues: Judge Rules for Unpaid Interns in Case Against Fox Searchlight

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
    June 26, 2013

    On June 11, 2013, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Fox Searchlight, a film division of Fox Entertainment, violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying its interns.

    In 2011, two production interns who worked on the movie “Black Swan” challenged the entertainment industry’s common practice of using unpaid workers during film production by filing a lawsuit charging that Fox Searchlight violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law.

    Eric Glatt and Andrew Footman allege that Fox Searchlight used unpaid interns to perform “menial tasks” that should have been performed by paid employees—such as taking lunch orders, tracking purchase orders, and taking out the trash—and failed to provide an educational or training element to their internships that would help exempt the company from having to pay the interns.

    U.S. District Judge William Pauley agreed, saying Fox Searchlight improperly classified Glatt and Footman as unpaid interns. Pauley indicated that, under New York Labor Law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Glatt and Footman were, in fact, “employees” of Fox Searchlight.

    Pauley wrote that, “Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references, and an understanding of how a production office works. But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them.”

    In his ruling, Pauley also granted a class certification for a group of interns who worked for Fox Entertainment Group, the parent of Fox Searchlight.

    The ruling in the case against Fox Searchlight comes after a New York judge recently dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed against Hearst Corp. by a group of unpaid interns suing for back pay. In May, District Judge Harold Baer Jr. ruled that the interns didn't meet the definition of a class because the work they participated in and benefits they received were too varied.

    And, in another case, Charlie Rose and his production company settled a lawsuit in December 2012 by agreeing to pay the 189 unpaid interns included in the class-action filing back pay of up to $1,100 each.

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Legal Issues: Judge Rules for Unpaid Interns in Case Against Fox Searchlight