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NY Judge Decides Unpaid Internship Lawsuit Against Fox Searchlight Can Grow

October 12, 2012

In a previous Carson, California employment lawyers blog, attorney Vincent Howard discussed a wage and hour lawsuit filed last year by two unpaid interns, accusing Fox Searchlight Pictures of violating The Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime provisions--by asking unpaid interns to perform tasks that should be performed by paid employees.

According to the wage and hour lawsuit, interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, who worked on the film, "Black Swan," accused Fox Searchlight of failing to meet the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) criteria for unpaid internships--which requires that unpaid internships must benefit the interns, and must be similar in activity to what the intern would experience in an vocational school or an educational setting. The DOL's federal criteria also mandates that an unpaid intern's work must not replace the work of a regularly paid employee, and the employer must derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.

The lawsuit claims that the unpaid interns provided an important part of Fox Searchlight's labor force on film productions by taking on important roles like production assistants, secretaries, and bookkeepers--often performing the same duties as entry-level employees, but without receiving any compensation for their efforts.

This August, the interns were reportedly allowed by a New York federal judge to file a motion to amend their lawsuit in order to expand the class of plaintiffs and include all people who worked at Fox Entertainment Group as unpaid interns over the past few years. The decision came after an investigation allegedly uncovered that the same company policies that applied to the Fox Searchlight interns also applied to interns participating in the Fox Entertainment Group's (FEG) internship program. Glatt and Footman's attorney sought to add two interns to the suit--a corporate intern who participated the FEG internship program, and another production intern who worked on the film "500 Days of Summer."

Fox fought the interns' attempt to file an amended lawsuit, asking the judge to reject the motion--as it would subject the company to further inquiries into other internship programs at the company's many divisions. However, according to THR, a New York federal judge ruled this week that the class-action wage and hour lawsuit will be allowed to grow, with certain conditions.

As Vincent Howard previously reported in an Anaheim employment attorneys blog, this lawsuit is one of a number of entertainment lawsuits that have been filed over the past year against high profile companies, including Harper's Bazaar and "Charlie Rose," the popular television program--by former interns who claim to have performed the responsibilities of paid employees without receiving any compensation.

Howard Law, PC represents federal and California wage and hour violation issues. To discuss your wage and hour rights, contact Vincent Howard, our Costa Mesa, California labor and employment attorney today. Call us today at 1-800-872-5925.

'Black Swan' Intern Lawsuit Proceeds, Striking Blow Against Unpaid Labor In Film, Huffington Post, August 23, 2012

Judge OKs Bigger Lawsuit Over Fox's Intern Programs (Exclusive), The Hollywood Reporter, October 10, 2012

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

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