A Federal District Judge recently ruled that Fox Entertainment Group misclassified unpaid interns who worked on the movie “Black Swan,” produced by Fox Pictures, where the young interns did “gopher work” rather than anything of real educational value. The young interns fetched coffee and did menial tasks and did not benefit from any educational experiences. To be classified properly as an unpaid “intern,” the internship must be structured so the worker receives some kind of educational benefit.
The decision means the interns and others like them might be eligible to receive pay for the time they worked for Fox.
Though the interns knew they would be unpaid going into the job, employees are not allowed to waive their wages under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
The judge also ruled that interns who worked in the corporate offices of Fox Entertainment Group Inc. can conditionally proceed as a class action to push wage and overtime claims.
The plaintiffs claim that Fox essentially used “interns” to lower their production costs without any intent of educating the interns. The interns worked in Fox corporate offices, and not on movies.
This case is a good reminder for employers that when using summer “interns,” employers need to be mindful that unpaid internships are governed by the FLSA and corresponding state laws and that generally, internships must provide some academic or educational value to the worker.
You can find training on these issues in our wage and hour and independent contractor training course.