On June 11, 2013 Federal Judge William Pauley III ruled that former unpaid interns Alexander Footman and Eric Glatt were wrongfully classified during their work on the film Black Swan, and their “employer” Fox Searchlight was in violation of Federal and State minimum wage law:
“Considering the totality of the circumstances, Glatt and Footman were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are ‘employees’ covered by the FLSA and NYLL,” said the judge, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “They worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer and performed low-level tasks not requiring specialized training. The benefits they may have received – such as the knowledge of how a production or accounting office functions or references for future jobs – are the results of simply having worked as any other employee works, not of internships designed to be uniquely educational to the interns and of little utility to the employer.”
In response to the common assertion by employers that internships are legal when they are done in exchange for college credit, the judge stated that this is of little consequence in determining whether the intern should receive compensation. According to the New York Times, Judge Pauley “forcefully called for following criteria that the Department of Labor has laid out for unpaid internships. Those rules say unpaid internships should not be to the immediate advantage of the employer, the work must be similar to vocational training given in an educational environment, the experience must be for the benefit of the intern and the intern’s work must not displace that of regular employees.”
To view a the full summary of judgment click here (PDF)
The judge also certified a class action suit that will explore internships throughout the corporate departments at Fox.
Intern Labor Rights congratulates Alex and Eric for taking a brave stance against the corporation Fox Searchlight. Other than being illegal in most cases, unpaid internships also violate basic principles of fairness and justice:
• Contributing to unemployment and inequality
• Denying of opportunity to those who cannot afford to work for free
• Reducing diversity in the workforce by relying on structural privilege
• Eroding employment-based workplace protections
• Devaluing of the dignity of work
• Creating downward pressure on the wages of workers who have to compete with free labor
• Promoting accumulation of wealth by some through the uncompensated work of others
• Producing a culture of self-denigration
PAY YOUR INTERNS (it’s the law).