MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal class action led by two former interns on "Black Swan" claims Fox Searchlight Pictures violates labor law "by employing a steady stream of unpaid interns," who are not doing the work for college credits.
"A successful player in the financially strapped world of independent film production, Fox Searchlight is profitable due in part to its tight control over the budgets of its small-scale productions," according to lead plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman. "Black Swan, for example, was produced for just $13 million and has grossed more than $300 million worldwide. This lawsuit alleges that Fox Searchlight has been able to reduce its film production costs by employing a steady stream of unpaid interns."
Glatt, 42, and Footman, 24, say they worked full time as unpaid interns on "Black Swan," Glatt in accounting and Footman in the production office, from 2009 to 2010.
They claim Fox Searchlight used more than 100 unpaid interns on the movie, in violation of minimum wage and overtime laws.
They say the Fair Labor Standards Act contains no exemptions for interns, unless they are participating in a vocational or academic training program.
"Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work," the class claims. "This practice runs afoul of basic wage-and-hour laws, which require that employers pay all of their employees - even those desperate for the work - the minimum wage, as well as overtime for hours over 40 in a workweek."
The complaint adds: "Fox Searchlight's unpaid interns are a crucial labor force on its productions, functioning as production assistants and bookkeepers and performing secretarial and janitorial work. Plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman were two of these unpaid interns; they were not paid any wages during the production of Black Swan. In misclassifying many of its workers as unpaid interns, Fox Searchlight has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment and workers' compensation insurance, sexual harassment and discrimination protections, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day's wage for a fair day's work."
Glatt and Footman say interns are required "to supply the tools necessary to perform their jobs, including but not limited to cell phones and laptop computers, thereby causing them to incur costs for the benefit and convenience of defendant. These were unlawful deductions in violation of the FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] and the NYLL [New York Labor Law]."
Glatt says he worked 40 to 50 hours per week, 5 days a week, for 51 days, and another 44 days in post-production.
Footman says he worked 40 to 50 hours a week, 5 days a week, for about 95 days.
"'Black Swan' had more than $300 million in revenues," Footman told The New York Times. "If they paid us, it wouldn't make a big difference to them, but it would make a huge difference to us."
They seek class damages for wages due on Fox Searchlight films from September 2005 until final judgment, and an injunction to stop Fox Searchlight from using unpaid interns on its film productions.
They are represented by Adam Klein with Outten & Golden.
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