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Labor And Employment Cases To Watch In 2015 - Second Circuit Intern Cases

Law360—Ben James

Second Circuit Intern Cases

A rash of wage lawsuits lawsuits filed by unpaid interns have grabbed headlines in recent years. The Second Circuit is poised to hear arguments in two of those cases in January and is expected to shed light on the standard for determining whether interns qualify as employees for the purposes of wage-and-hour law.

Those suits, against Fox Entertainment Group Inc. and Hearst Corp. respectively, yielded different outcomes on class certification bids from New York federal judges and led to interlocutory appeals.  

In November 2013, the Second Circuit agreed to hear Fox's challenge to U.S. District Judge William Pauley's June decision granting class and collective action certification to a former intern, as well as a plaintiffs-side appeal of U.S. District Judge Harold Baer's May ruling refusing to certify a class on state labor law claims from former Hearst interns. 

In an Oct. 1 petition, Fox said that Judge Pauley and Judge Baer had utilized different standards and reached opposite conclusions.

And when Judge Baer granted a bid from former interns Xuedan Wang and Erin Spencer to certify his class certification ruling for interlocutory appeal in the Hearst case, he noted the differing outcomes on class certification in the Hearst and Fox lawsuits and said the Second Circuit could provide clarity for other pending intern suits.

The intern battles with Fox and Hearst are a part of a larger trend, said Justin Swartz, a partner with Outten & Golden LLP, which represents the plaintiffs in both cases. Employers have been increasingly trying to evade their obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, he said.

"I think there's been a movement among the business community to place labels on people in order to avoid the protections that are so important," he said. "Workers have been pushing back, and interns are just one example."

The cases will be heard in tandem Jan. 30. Outten & Golden's Rachel Bien will argue for the interns.

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The cases are Wang v. The Hearst Corp., case number 13-4480; and Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., case number 13-4478; both at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.