The victory in a lawsuit brought by a group of interns against the producers of the Oscar winning movie “Black Swan” has been overturned by an appellate court. The interns had previously won against the 2010 film which was directed by Darren Aronofsky and starred the Israeli born actress Natalie Portman.
Portman won the Oscar for the best performance by an actress for her role in the film.
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Two interns, Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, brought the suit in 2011 claiming that the producers violated labor laws by having unpaid interns do work on the movie. They brought the suit on behalf of more than 100 people who worked as unpaid interns. It was brought against Fox Searchlight Pictures which produced the movie.
The plaintiffs sought back pay in what is considered to be a landmark case because, whatever the final ruling, it will affect America’s much relied upon business model of using unpaid interns to do the grunt work in all manner of fields, from entertainment to the media and major corporations.
In 2013, district judge William Paley III agreed. The appeal hearing was held on January 30th in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
That judge, John Walker, ruled that while the letter of the federal labor statutes may have been violated, previous Supreme Court decisions held that unpaid internships were kosher since they offered the interns a learning experience and a chance to advance in a certain industry.
The judge wrote, “In sum, we agree with the defendants that the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship. On defendants’ interlocutory appeal, we VACATE the district court’s order granting partial summary judgment to Glatt and Footman, VACATE its order certifying Antalik’s New York class, VACATE its order conditionally certifying Antalik’s nationwide collective, and REMAND for further proceedings.”
You can expect this one to go to the Supreme Court.