FLSA Claims by Movie Studio’s Unpaid Interns are Appropriate for Class Certification

Class Action Law Monitor
July 16, 2013

Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., No. 11-6784 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2013)

In an action alleging nonpayment of wages through the misclassification of the plaintiffs as unpaid interns, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that the totality of the circumstances established that the plaintiffs were employees as a matter of law under federal and state wage laws. The case was appropriate for class action and collective action certification.

Fox Entertainment Group Inc. (Fox) was the parent company of Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. (Searchlight). Searchlight entered into production-distribution-finance agreements (production agreements) for the production of the feature film “Black Swan.”

Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman worked as unpaid interns for the production of “Black Swan.” Eden Antalik was an unpaid intern at Searchlight’s corporate office. The three individuals sued Fox and Searchlight (see 11 Cl.Act.L.Mon. 242, Oct. 15, 2011), alleging that their classification as unpaid interns rather than paid employees violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL).

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment as to whether the plaintiffs were “employees” covered by the FLSA and NYLL. Antalik filed a motion for class certification and collective action certification.

The district court determined that Searchlight was an employer of Glatt and Footman. …

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The evidence established that Glatt and Footman were “employees.”
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The district court found that Antalik’s proposed class met the requirements for class certification. Whether the defendants received an immediate advantage from the interns’ work was one question common to the class. Common questions predominated.

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A class action was superior to other methods of adjudication. The district court reasoned that relatively small recoveries were at stake.

Conditional certification of Antalik’s FLSA claims was appropriate. Antalik pointed to generalized proof that interns were the victims of a common policy to replace paid workers with unpaid interns.

The district court granted Glatt’s and Footman’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that they were “employees” under the FLSA and NYLL and Searchlight was their joint employer. The court granted Antalik’s motion to proceed with her claims on behalf of herself and similarly situated interns.
Judge : William H. Pauley III

Counsel for plaintiffs : Adam T. Klein, Rachel M. Bien, Jennifer L. Liu, Juno E. Turner, … Outten & Golden LLP, 212-245-1000, New York.

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