'Black Swan' Interns Sue Fox Searchlight After Working for Free
The plaintiffs claim they were unpaid for performing duties that should have been handled by paid employees, a violation of minimum wage and overtime laws.
Two interns who worked on Black Swan are suing Fox Searchlight Pictures after working on the movie for free.
Alex Footman and Eric Glatt filed their lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, alleging that the studio had violated minimum wage and overtime laws by hiring dozens of interns to do jobs for free that should have done by paid employees, the New York Times reported.
They also claim that Fox Searchlight did not give them the kind of educational experience that would exempt the company from having to pay the interns under current labor laws.
"Fox Searchlight's unpaid interns are a crucial labor force on its productions, functioning as production assistants and bookkeepers and performing secretarial and janitorial work," the lawsuit says. "In misclassifying many of its workers as unpaid interns, Fox Searchlight has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees."
Footman claims his duties including making coffee, handling lunch orders, taking out the trash and cleaning the production office.
Glatt, meanwhile, worked as an accounting intern, creating documents for purchase orders and petty cash, going to the set for signatures and making spreadsheets to track missing information in personnel files.
"The only thing I learned on this internship was to be more picky in choosing employment opportunities," Footman told the Times. "Black Swan had more than $300 million in revenues. If they paid us, it wouldn't make a big difference to them, but it would make a huge difference to us."
Added Glatt: "When I started looking for opportunities in the industry, I saw that most people accept an ugly trade-off. If you want to get your foot in the door on a studio picture, you have to suck it up and do an unpaid internship."
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the suit, claiming that Fox Searchlight has employed more than 100 unpaid interns on various film productions. They also are seeking back pay as well as an injunction against the studio for improperly using unpaid interns on future projects.
Fox Searchlight spokesman Russell Nelson told the Times, "We just learned of this litigation and have not had a chance to review it so we cannot make any comment at this time."