Two unpaid interns who worked on the crew of the movie “Black Swan,” Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, are suing Fox Searchlight Pictures, alleging that the failure to pay them violated minimum wage and overtime rules.
As reported by Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times (link here):
One plaintiff, Alex Footman, a 2009 Wesleyan graduate who majored in film studies, said he had worked as a production intern on “Black Swan” in New York from October 2009 to February 2010.
He said his responsibilities included preparing coffee for the production office, ensuring that the coffee pot was full, taking and distributing lunch orders for the production staff, taking out the trash and cleaning the office.
The other named plaintiff, Eric Glatt, 42, who has an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, was an accounting intern for “Black Swan.” He prepared documents for purchase orders and petty cash, traveled to the set to obtain signatures on documents and created spreadsheets to track missing information in employee personnel file.
This is a welcomed development. I have long argued (see link to law review article below) that most unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws and other labor standards.
In addition, the failure to pay interns leaves them more vulnerable to discrimination and sexual harassment. At least one federal court has held that unpaid interns cannot bring a claim under the Civil Rights Act because they are not employees within the meaning of the law.
This will be an interesting case. Stay tuned!
For more blog posts on interns and the law, go here.
To download, without charge, a copy of my 2002 Connecticut Law Review article, “The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns” — hailed by Ross Perlin’s Intern Nation (2011) as “the best single source of information” on student internships and the law — go here.