May a movie studio fail to pay its workers a wage simply by calling their job an internship? Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Civil Action No. 11-cv-06784) (WHP) answered that question in the negative.
In that case, Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. (“Fox”) hired the plaintiffs to perform basic chores such as taking lunch orders, answering phones, arranging travel plans, tracking purchase orders, taking out trash and assembling office furniture. This mirrored the same duties that were being performed by paid employees. However, the plaintiffs were not paid solely because they were designated as interns.
The plaintiffs sued, taking the position that this violated the Department of Labor standards. Those standards indicate that internships should not be to the immediate advantage of employer, but instead should be structured as an extension of their training and an adjunct to their schooling. Interns should not be doing the work of employees, since the duties of an employee are not primarily related to teaching the employee, so much as benefiting the employer. The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
This case is consistent with the general trend to force employers to pay for work that an employee should be doing, regardless of whether the employee is designated as an intern. A similar ruling has been brought against Harper’s Bazaar. Additionally. Charlie Rose’s production company, Charlie Rose, Inc., settled with nearly 200 former interns by providing them with back-wages.