Fox Searchlight Agrees to Settle Unpaid Interns' Wage Claims

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By Jon Steingart

July 13 — Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. agreed to settle for up to $276,600 claims by interns in New York and California that they should have been paid for their work on “Black Swan” and other film projects, according to a motion filed in federal court in Manhattan ( Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. , S.D.N.Y., No. 1:11-cv-06784, motion for preliminary settlement approval 7/12/16 ).

The preliminary agreement filed July 12 covers about 80 interns who worked in New York and 557 in California who would receive $495 each, Rachel Bien with Outten & Golden LLP, who represented the interns, told Bloomberg BNA July 13. It will be reviewed for fairness and reasonableness by Judge William H. Pauley III of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Appeals Court Ordered Do-Over

The case returned to the trial court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last year reversed partial summary judgment for the interns. The appeals court said the test the lower court applied to determine employee status was outdated.

The Second Circuit adopted a new test to evaluate whether the company or the intern is the primary beneficiary of the internship. That test was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and followed by a number of district courts, Bien said.

“It is significant in terms of the legal issues,” Bien said. “It was also significant in terms of raising the profile of the issue entirely,” she said.

“When we first filed the case everyone sort of laughed at us. 'What? Interns shouldn’t get paid,' ” was the general reaction, Bien said. “I think that the pendulum really shifted over the time that we’ve been doing the case.”

“Just because you are an intern or a student or less experienced or more desperate to land a job doesn’t mean your work lacks value,” Bien said. “People are much more knowledgeable about what their rights are” as a result of this case, she said.

Proskauer Rose LLP, which represented Fox Searchlight, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the motion for preliminary settlement approval is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Glatt_et_al_v_Fox_Searchlight_Pictures_Inc_Docket_No_111cv06784_S/2.

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