Unpaid Interns Win Big ... Sort Of

Although the movie “Black Swan” was commended by moviegoers, it seems as though the Interns working for the movie were not big fans. In a case filed in 2011, in the Southern District of New York, two Interns took action against Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. for their work performed during the filming and production of “Black Swan.” The Interns made claims for compensation as employees pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law, arguing to have completed work that paid employees normally do.

In a decision rendered by Judge William H. Pauley III in June of 2013, the Court found that Fox should have paid the Interns on the movie “Black Swan” due to the interns being essentially regular employees.

In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed partial summary judgment for the Interns, finding that the lower court applied an outdated test to find an employee’s status. Instead, the Second Circuit applied a new test in determining if intern is the primary beneficiary of the internship, or the company. Unluckily for Fox, this case will continue to be used as a standard and will set precedent around the country on paying interns.

Following this decision, Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. made the right move in agreeing to settle claims for up to $276,600 by Interns in New York and California (Fox included other interns working on other film projects in California as well). The 557 Interns in California and 80 New York Interns would received a mere $495 each, but at the implications following this suit reaches far beyond monetary value. It shows a step in the direction that Courts are now swaying with unpaid labor of an entire class of employees normally overlooked by the law.

Although the counter-argument by employers is usually among the lines of Interns being paid in “experience,” Courts are now seeing past such foolishness and Interns are winning as a result.

For more on this story, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/business/judge-rules-for-interns-who-sued-fox-searchlight.html?_r=0 For a copy of the motion for preliminary settlement approval, visit: http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Glatt_et_al_v_Fox_Searchlight_Pictures_Inc_Docket_No_111cv06784_S/2

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