I think we can all agree that working for Fox Searchlight Pictures would be pretty legit. What isn’t legit is working 40+ hours a week and not getting paid. What’s even less legit is working 40+ hours a week getting coffee and taking out trash and still not getting paid.
On Tuesday, a judge from the Federal District Court in Manhattan appeared to agree when he ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures, the subject of a recent lawsuit, should have paid its interns. The two plaintiffs, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, said they did basic chores during their time as production interns on the set of “Black Swan,” tasks normally undertaken by regular employees, and were never compensated for their work.
The laws governing unpaid internships are clear: interns cannot take the place of regular employees, nor can their work immediately benefit the company they are working for. Unpaid internships are legal if they provide an educational experience for the intern. It’s still unclear what sort of education experience menial labor provides when it is the extent of the internship. One would hope the interns were capable of taking out trash prior to beginning their internships.
Today’ victory is the first in a series of lawsuits against companies like Hearst Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Elite Model Management, and Harper’s Bazaar, all facing charges against unlawful unpaid internship programs.