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Unpaid interns seek expansion of wage lawsuit against movie studio

Last November, we wrote about a high-profile lawsuit that has brought much attention to some common problems associated with unpaid internships. Two young men who formerly worked as interns in the production of the movie "Black Swan" brought a class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight.

The plaintiffs claimed that the studio's unpaid internship program violated several provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, including wage-and-hour laws governing minimum wage and overtime.

The U.S. Department of Labor has clarified that interns are not to replace regular employees. And for an unpaid internship at a for-profit company to be legitimate, it must meet a strict set of criteria. Perhaps one of the most essential requirements is that an unpaid internship must be educationally valuable to the intern.

The plaintiffs alleged that in all their months of work for Fox Searchlight, they neither got paid nor gained any valuable help or experience. Now, attorneys representing the two men are seeking an amended lawsuit that will expand the case even further.

In a hearing later this month, a judge will consider the motion to "broaden the scope of the case to include all interns who participated in Fox Entertainment Group's internship program." The plaintiffs claim that the internship abuses they suffered were present throughout Fox Entertainment Group, and not just limited to Fox Searchlight.

According to court filings, new evidence reveals that "the same hiring, personnel and company policies that applied to Searchlight interns applied to all interns who participated in FEG's internship program."

Over the last several years, many unscrupulous employers have sought to cut costs by using unpaid interns to supplement or replace regular employees. Therefore, this lawsuit has already brought national attention to a problem that is pervasive in Florida and throughout the country. Hopefully, if the motion to amend is granted, it will help keep this important issue in the spotlight.

Source: HollywoodReporter.com, "Fox's Entire Internship Program Now Under Legal Attack (Exclusive)," Eriq Gardner, Aug. 13, 2012

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