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A Victory for Unpaid Interns

businessweek.com—Karen Weise

Interns of the world can now unite. Or at least it may be easier for them to do so now that a court decision has found unpaid interns who worked for Fox Searchlight Pictures (NWSA) on the filming of the movie Black Swan were actually employees and should have been paid. The judge also certified the group of interns as a class who could sue Fox on behalf of unpaid interns who worked on other productions.

According to the ruling (PDF), the Fox interns gained little more than “resume listings, job references, and an understanding of how a production office works.” Fox, on the other hand, received real benefits from the work done, the judge said, because it would have needed to pay someone to do the work had the interns not been there.

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In the Fox case, the judge ruled that while some appeals courts have used the primary benefit test, it was “subjective and unpredictable” and didn’t fit within the precedent of a foundational Supreme Court case on the issue. Instead, the judge said the six-point analysis was more appropriate.

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There have been just a handful of cases challenging internships, and the competing rulings show the issue isn’t settled yet. Still, the Black Swan case, which Fox has said it will appeal, provides extra ammunition for interns, ProPublica reports.

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