Unpaid Interns Fight Back
Two interns are seeking a class action lawsuit against their former “employer” Fox Searchlight Pictures for violating federal labor laws. The interns, Eric Glatt, 42 and Alexander Footman, 24, claim that they worked full time, up to 50 hours per week, unpaid, performing menial tasks that did not further their education whatsoever. The two men worked on the hit movie “Black Swan,” one as a production intern and the other, an intern in the accounting department. Both state that they and hundreds like them at Fox Searchlight were given basic tedious tasks that should have been performed by paid employees. The labor laws contain certain requisite requirements in order to allow an entity to be exempt from paying their interns, requirements the plaintiffs say, that were not met.
The Federal labor department provides for criteria that must be met in order for a company to employ unpaid interns legally. Some of the requirements are: that the intern benefit in some way from their position at the firm, that the training received be similar to what would be given in an educational institution, that the intern not displace regular employees and that the employer derive no immediate advantage from the intern’s activities. Footman notes the lack of educational benefit derived from his daily tasks of fetching employees coffee, taking out the trash, taking and distributing lunch orders for the production staff and cleaning offices.
Black Swan, released in late 2010, grossed more than $300 million worldwide, although the cost of production was calculated to be $13 million. With a profit of $287 million, Glatt and Footman say, they could have afforded to pay their interns at least minimum wage. Thus, the former interns demand that they be paid their wages due as well as an injunction on Fox Searchlight restricting them from using unpaid interns on all future film productions.