Interns' big victory against Fox reversed by appeals court

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Interns suffered a big setback on Thursday when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decided to vacate a federal judge's summary judgment ruling in favor of two interns who both worked on Fox Searchlight's Black Swan.

Alex Footman and Eric Glatt brought suit in 2011 and contended that Fox's unpaid internship program violated minimum wage and overtime laws. In June 2013, a federal judge declared them the winner and also certified a class action over the internship programs of Fox Entertainment Group.

The ruling soon led to many other lawsuits against media and entertainment companies, and large ones including NBCUniversal and Viacom decided to pay millions of dollars to resolve claims made by former interns.

But today's appellate opinion says U.S. District Judge William Pauley erred by focusing too much on the Labor Department's six criteria for determining whether an internship might be unpaid.

"In sum, we agree with the defendants that the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship," states the opinion authored by 2nd Circuit judge John Walker.

Glatt was a highly educated finance pro who aimed to get into the entertainment industry at a late age in 2009 when he began interning in Black Swan's accounting department and in 2010 in the post-production department. His duties included copying, scanning, and filing documents, plus as today's opinion notes wryly, purchasing a non‐allergenic pillow for the film's director Darren Aronofsky.

Along with Footman, who interned in the Black Swan production department, Glatt decided to lead a social justice movement objecting to how companies were exploiting free labor from interns. Though internships have held a special place in the entertainment and media industry for decades, and Glatt found difficulties in finding lawyers to take up his case, the 2013 summary judgment ruling by Pauley signaled that unpaid internships weren't immune from legal scrutiny.

Besides Glatt and Footman, Eden Antalik also joined the fight. She worked as a publicity intern and had claims that moved the dispute beyond Fox Searchlight to how its corporate parent was using interns and possibly violating minimum wage and overtime standards.

More to come.

Movie Intern Who Sued Fox Searchlight Speaks Out Against Unpaid Internships

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