Fox Searchlight Sued for Labor Violations

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Outten & Golden LLP files lawsuit against Fox Searchlight for allegedly failing to pay any wages to interns.

Fox Searchlight, the specialty and independent film division of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, allegedly violated federal and state labor laws, according to a lawsuit filed today in New York federal court.

Fox Searchlight is accused of failing to pay any wages at all to unpaid interns who perform the work of production assistants, bookkeepers, secretaries and janitors on films produced and co-produced by Fox Searchlight. According to the complaint, these workers are owed the applicable minimum wage rate for all hours worked, overtime for the hours that they work over 40 in a workweek, spread of hours pay on days on which they work more than 10 hours, and reimbursement for the use of their personal cell phones and laptop computers on film production work. Fox Searchlight’s practices with respect to unpaid interns allegedly violate the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL).

The workers are represented by attorneys from Outten & Golden LLP. The firm will seek to have the lawsuit certified as a class action to recover unpaid wages and other damages for all unpaid interns who have worked on films produced by Fox Searchlight between September 28, 2005 and the date of final judgment in this matter.

The plaintiffs are Eric Glatt of Brooklyn, NY and Alexander Footman of Takoma Park, MD. The complaint alleges that they both worked in 2009 and 2010 on the production of the feature film “Black Swan,” which was produced for just $13 million and went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide.

The defendant is Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.

Plaintiff Eric Glatt stated, “I am pursuing this case because the practice of hiring unpaid interns generates downward pressure on the wages of all freelancers, who effectively have to compete with free entry-level labor when looking for work and negotiating their rates. It also excludes people who want to break into the industry, but cannot afford to work for no pay.”

Plaintiff Alexander Footman said, “With this lawsuit, I hope that we can help interns and former interns throughout the entertainment industry who should have been paid wages under the law.”

Attorney Elizabeth Wagoner, of Outten & Golden LLP, stated, “Most interns at for-profit corporations have the right to at least minimum wage and overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Our clients, and the hundreds of workers they seek to represent in this action, want to send a message to companies throughout the country: when interns perform productive work, they must be paid a legal wage.”

Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, the first book to document and analyze the internship phenomenon, stated, “In recent years, the use of unpaid interns by private firms has gotten out of control. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the film and entertainment business, where unpaid interns, receiving little training but doings tons of work, are everywhere. This complaint represents an important step towards righting a major wrong, reminding the millions who intern each year that their hard work deserves a fair wage.”

The case is “Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, et al., v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.,” Case No. 11-cv-6784 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

Attorney Contact: Elizabeth Wagoner, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, 212-245-1000, http://www.outtengolden.com.

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Virginia Outten
Outten & Golden LLP
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