Fox Searchlight and the Fox Entertainment Group got some speedy justice today in the ongoing Black Swan intern case. Less than two weeks after requesting formal permission from a federal judge for an “immediate appeal” to his potentially industry game changing June 11 ruling that unpaid interns on the 2010 Darren Aronofsky-directed film were really employees, Fox got the green light Wednesday. Judge William Paley III made the certification decision in a case conference in federal court in NYC today. The matter now heads to the Second Circuit for “much-needed guidance”, as Fox said in its August 23 filing, on what the legal standard for determining if an intern is actually an employee and entitled to wages under the Federal Labor Standards Act. What the Appeals Court decides could potentially dampen the bubbling class action. Having said that, today’s decision is the second incremental win for Fox in as many weeks. On August 26, Judge Paley granted the Fox companies’ June 25 request to limit the time period in which potential class action participants can be considered qualified to join the suit.
Days after yet another round of filings in the Black Swan interns’ class action, Fox Searchlight and Fox Entertainment Group got some traction and some status quo out of the overseeing federal judge. The traction this week came out of Judge William Paley III granting (read the order here) the Fox companies’ June 25th request to limit the time period in which potential class action participants can be considered qualified to join the suit. Instead of stretching from September 28, 2008 to September 1, 2010 as originally granted on June 11, the qualifying period will now be from a much tighter January 18 to September 1, 2010. The case was modified down to less than nine months in range due to the three year statute of limitations and the fact that plaintiff Eden Antalik, didn’t join the initial September 2011 action by Black Swan interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt until an amended complaint was filed in late 2012. While Glatt and Footman worked on the 2010 Darren Aronofsky-directed film, Antalik was an unpaid intern in Fox Searchlight’s NYC corporate office. This order on August 26 could now see the number of people who can actually join the class action cut quite severely – which is a carving up the case that works for Fox.
Just under two months after they took their first swipe at getting the judgment against them and a class action in the Black Swan interns’ case reversed, Fox Searchlight and the Fox Entertainment Group have hit back again. In filings late last week, Fox asked a federal judge for formal permission for an “immediate appeal” to his potentially industry game changing June 11 ruling that unpaid interns on the 2010 Darren Aronofsky-directed film were really employees. “The Order meets all of the statutory requirements for certification, and the circumstances of this case are very much in keeping with other cases in which courts — including this Court — have granted certification for immediate, interlocutory appeal. The Court should therefore grant Defendants’ motion and allow the Second Circuit to provide much-needed guidance on the issues raised in the Order,” said the memo (read it here) filed on August 23 in U.S. District Court in New York. If certified by Judge William Paley III, the appeal would head to the Second Circuit. Primary plaintiffs Alex Footman and Eric Glatt first launched their civil action case back in September 2011 on behalf of themselves and more than 100 Fox Searchlight interns.
Fox Cable Networks, Fox Entertainment Group and National Geographic Society are being sued by a widow of an Army soldier over the documentary Inside Afghan ER, which she claims shows unauthorized pictures of her and her children. Donnice Roberts, whose husband Staff Sgt Kevin Casey Roberts was killed on duty in Afghanistan in May 2008, says her family’s lives are in danger from radical fanatics because of what was shown in the documentary, which never aired in the U.S. (Authorized by the Pentagon, Inside Afghan ER only aired internationally in 2009.) Roberts wants an injunction against Inside Afghan ER and more than $75,000 in damages, and she is seeking an order to stop the names and images of military families being used without their permission. Fox and National Geographic Society are partners in the Nat Geo Channel and Nat Geo Channels International. The suit was filed November 1 in U.S. District Court in Texas; service summons orders against the plaintiffs were filed Wednesday. “We have not been served with a lawsuit and as a result we can’t comment,” a Fox spokesperson said today, speaking for all defendants.
Alex Footman and Eric Glatt should not be allowed to enlarge their class action suit to include all Fox Entertainment Group interns, says Fox Searchlight. In a 24-page memorandum filed Wednesday in New York federal court (read it here), the studio claims that the request the former Black Swan interns’ made last month is speculative and not even plausible. Fox Searchlight did concede that former intern Eden Antalik could serve as a rep for interns in its NYC office. They did not do the same for Kanene Gratts, who served as an intern on (500) Days of Summer back in early 2008 in LA. Fox, who co-produced that film, claims that Gratts is time-barred under California law, which has a four-year statute of limitations.
A hearing in Manhattan on August 24 could significantly enlarge the class action suit two Black Swan interns brought last year against Fox Searchlight. In an order made public today (read it here), Judge William Pauley III has agreed to a conference next week on Alex Footman and Eric Glatt’s request to amend their suit. “Plaintiffs will seek to broaden the scope of the case to include all interns who participated in Fox Entertainment Group’s (‘FEG’s”) internship program,” wrote their lawyer Rachel Bien in an August 2 memo to the judge. The duo also want to separate the class of interns for their suit into “Corporate Interns,” those who worked through the FEG program, and “Production Interns,” those who worked on films that Fox Searchlight co-produced. To that end the amended suit will add two new plaintiffs, Eden Antalik and Kanene Gratts. The former worked through the FEG program and the latter worked on 2009’s (500) Days of Summer, a Searchlight co-produced film. The legal documents also state that “Ms. Gratts would seek to bring classwide claims under California’s Unfair Competition law for unpaid minimum wages on behalf of Production Interns who worked in California.