In a case that could affect companies that use interns, a proposed settlement has been reached in two class action lawsuits — including the “Black Swan” case — where unpaid interns at entertainment company Fox claim they were actually employees and entitled to pay.
The Los Angeles Times reports the “Black Swan” case prompted a rethinking in Hollywood of how interns are treated.
Proposed settlements are in the Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. lawsuit — in which two of the named plaintiffs worked as interns on the “Black Swan” film — and the Mackown v. Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. lawsuit.
The settlements still need court approval. However, the settlements call for Fox to pay approximately $600,000, which includes $200,000 in legal fees in the Glatt lawsuit and $60,000 in the Mackown suit. Class members would receive $495 each.
Questions over who is an intern could affect large staffing buyers. Research by Staffing Industry Analysts found that 18% of large staffing buyers managed interns as part of their contingent workforce program a few years ago. However, that research also found that 77% of large buyers in the survey paid their interns and 5% provided a stipend.
The Glatt lawsuit includes all unpaid interns who worked at least two weeks between Jan. 18, 2010, and Sept. 1, 2010, as well as all unpaid interns only in New York state who worked at least two weeks from Sept. 28, 2005, through Sept. 1, 2010. The first group includes approximately 59 members and the New York class includes 80 members.
In the Mackown case, the settlement includes 557 individuals who had an unpaid internship for at least two weeks in California between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 1, 2010.
The Glatt case was filed in 2011 and a district court ruled that the interns were employees. However, Fox appealed to the Second Circuit Court which overruled the district court in July 2015 saying in its ruling that “the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship,” instead of a six-factor test promoted by the US Department of Labor. A report by law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP says the Circuit Court’s ruling redefined how interns are properly classified.