Over six months after the potentially industry game changing June 11 ruling that unpaid interns on the Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan were really employees, Fox Searchlight today were handed an opportunity to turn things around. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the label and the Fox Entertainment Group their request to appeal vital aspects of District Judge William Paley III’s ruling from earlier this summer (read it here). The Appeal court gave Fox Searchlight the right to appeal the class certification of former interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt’s case. The court also granted the Foxes an appeal on the summary judgment in the former interns’ favor that they were treated as Fox employees in their internship under the definitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. Needless to say, even with a couple of other legal wins under its belt in this case since June, Fox Searchlight felt Thanksgiving came a little early this year. “We believe the District Court’s rulings are erroneous. We are pleased that the Second Circuit has granted our petitions to review those rulings at this time,” a studio spokesperson told me today. Fox first sought the Second Circuit’s involvement in Judge Paley’s order back in late August. Today’s ruling also links the appeals with an intern case moving through the courts involving the Hearst Corporation. Fox opposed consolidating the Hearst case with their appeal and were granted that too but both appeals will proceed in tandem.
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.
A former Saturday Night Live intern and a former MSNBC intern are the latest unpaid workers to take to the courts. Monet Eliastam and Jesse Moore filed a proposed class action complaint today against NBCUniversal in federal court in New York. “By misclassifying Plaintiffs and hundreds of workers as unpaid or underpaid interns, NBCUniversal has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment, workers’ compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, says the 23-page complaint (read it here). The proposed class action goes after NBCUniversal for labor law violations in using what are essentially free workers. “A key part of NBCUniversal’s success are the hundreds of unpaid or underpaid interns who work for it as production assistants, researchers, and delivery-people, but receive no or very little compensation for their work,” it adds.
Fox Searchlight said it was going to try to get the June 11 judgment against it and for a class action in the Black Swan Interns case reversed, and today it started that effort. Aiming to carve up the order, the company filed a motion of partial reconsideration (read it here) Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York. A motion that said the court didn’t really know what it was talking about. “The Court’s Order adopted plaintiff’s proposed class and collective definitions, without apparent consideration of the undisputed facts that Fox Group and Fox Interactive Media (‘FIM’) are not and never have been subsidiaries or divisions of FEG or Searchlight,” said the memorandum of support accompanying the motion. 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.
With this procedural move, Fox Searchlight and Fox Entertainment Group took a strategic swipe at Judge William Paley III’s order earlier this month granting Footman and Glatt a summary judgment that they were treated as Fox employees in their internship under the definitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. At the time, the judge also certified a class action that will look at the way the intern programs at Fox really work and whether they actually provide educational experience. The Fox entities today also want to limit the time period in which potential class action participants can be considered qualified to join the suit.
Interns Win Key Ruling Against Fox Searchlight In ‘Black Swan’ Lawsuit; Studio Says It Will Seek Reversal
Two former Black Swan interns today got a big legal boost in their favor against Fox Searchlight. In a dense order issued Tuesday, a federal judge in New York granted Alex Footman and Eric Glatt a summary judgment (read it here) saying they were in fact treated as Fox employees in their internship under the definitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. Perhaps more importantly for Hollywood at large, Judge William Pauley III also certified a class action that will look at the way the intern programs at Fox really work and whether they actually provide educational experience. Fox obviously does not like either decision. “We believe they are erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed by the 2nd Circuit as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement Tuesday.
Fox may disagree with what he ordered, but the judge was clear in his definitions. In Pauley’s view what Footman and Glatt were actually doing while on director Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film wasn’t particularly educational. “The benefits they may have received — such as knowledge of how a production or accounting office functions or references for future jobs — are the results of simply having worked as any other employee works, not of internships designed to be uniquely educational to the interns and of little utility to the employer. They received nothing approximating the education they would receive in an academic setting or vocational school,” Pauley wrote in the 36-page order.
Charlie Rose will be paying out more that $207,900 to interns who worked on his PBS show to settle a class action suit. The settlement, reported by The New York Times, was reached this week and will see Rose and his production company Charlie Rose Inc paying $1,100 each to a class of about 189 interns. This stems from an initial class action suit filed in the New York State Supreme Court by former Rose intern Lucy Bickerton on March 1. In that filing Bickerton, who interned on the Rose Show in 2007, said that despite New York law requiring unpaid internships to only be allowed in an educational context, the Charlie Rose Show “did not provide academic or vocational training.” From Bickerton’s descriptions, the interns essentially performed the duties of research assistants and production assistants, working up to 25 hours a week. The suit sought to get minimum wage for all of the Rose Show interns ”in an amount that cannot currently be ascertained but that readily exceeds $150,000.”
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.