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"Black Swan" interns file class action suit for unpaid wages

Two former interns who worked for Fox Searchlight Pictures on the film "Black Swan" have filed a federal class action suit claiming the company violated labor laws by hiring unpaid interns. They and other unpaid interns are seeking unpaid overtime and wages. According to the plaintiffs, Fox Searchlight Pictures hires the unpaid interns in order to reduce costs.

Both of the interns, 42 and 24 years of age, claim they worked full time as unpaid interns on the film in accounting and in the production office between 2009 and 2010. One of the plaintiffs claims to have worked between 40 and 50 hour work weeks, five days per week, for 51 days plus another 44 days following the film's production. The other claims to have worked between 40 and 50 hour work weeks, five days per week, for 95 days.

The complaint alleges that over 100 other unpaid interns worked on the film in violation of minimum wage and overtime laws.

In producing the film "Black Swan," Fox Searchlight Pictures spent around $13 million. The film grossed over $300 million worldwide. According to the complaint, unpaid interns are one way Fox seeks to increase the gap between expenses and earnings.

Under federal law, employers must pay employees minimum wage, plus overtime for hours exceeding a 40 hour work week. According to the complaint, the Fair Labor Standards Act makes no exemptions for interns who are not performing the work as part of a vocational or academic training program. Apparently, none of the plaintiffs were performing the work in connection to a course of study. Fox was also said to be in violation of New York Labor Law.

The plaintiffs are seeking class damages for wages going back to September 2005, plus an order to stop Fox Searchlight's practice of using unpaid interns on its films.

Fox Searchlight reportedly responded the lawsuit dismissively, saying the interns' claims were meritless since they were never official employed by the film company.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Class Claims Fox Pictures Stiffs Interns," Glynis Farrel, Oct 3, 2011.

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