Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Earlier today Judge William H. Pauley in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York handed down an important opinion in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. The case involves the hot topic of whether interns working on the film Black Swan were really employees who should have been paid at least minimum wage. The court granted the plaintiffs summary judgment on that issue, ruling that they were indeed employees.
The court relied on the Department of Labor's multipart test, for determining when an intern is legitimately a non-employee. The court rejected Searchlight's argument that it should rely on a balancing test weighing who received the primary benefit from the internship. That balancing test, the court ruled, was subjective and unworkable for employers. Some interns will learn more than others, and it may not even be possible to know who is the primary beneficiary until the end of the internship.
Another plaintiff, who worked as an intern for the Fox Entertainment Group at its headquarters in New York was allowed to pursue her action as a collective action under the New York Labor Law and a collective action under the FLSA.
This is an important development in the wage and hour/misclassification arena, an area of litigation that is growing. The legality of unpaid internships has been a big focus lately, in a wide variety of contexts, including in the legal field. We'll have to see if this inspires suits in more industries. My prediction is that it will.