Former interns for Fox Searchlight Pictures who brought a class action lawsuit alleging federal and state labor law violations now face an obstacle thanks to new standards set by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2013 a federal judge in the lower court ruled the interns were misclassified and should have been considered employees, and therefore entitled to minimum wages.
The lower court determined that the interns’ menial work at Fox, which included answering phones and coordinating lunch orders, entitled them to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor laws. This opened the floodgates, allowing other interns working for the Fox family of companies to join the suit in a class action. The Second Circuit struck down the lower court’s decision, stating that the previous standard failed to account for “tangible and intangible” benefits to interns. The case was sent back to the lower court with instructions to apply newly outlined standards.
The Second Circuit defined numerous “non-exhaustive” factors to be considered by courts in this and similar cases, including “the extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning,” and “the extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.” These same instructions were given to a lower court in a similar case brought by former interns at Hearst Corp.
The case has been closely watched by Hollywood and corporate America, as it has the potential to set a significant precedent for interns working for various companies across the country.
All employees are due proper wages according to the Fair Labor Standards Act and applicable state laws. The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group have represented hundreds of plaintiffs in FLSA lawsuits, and are available to answer any questions you have regarding your employment rights – contact us today.