Fox Searchlight Can Appeal Ruling on Unpaid Internships

Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. can immediately appeal findings that some unpaid interns should have been classified as employees and paid, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley in Manhattan filed an order today allowing the action. Pauley’s said his ruling in June that internships must meet a strict test to be exempt from minimum-wage laws conflicted with one by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. in a similar case against publisher Hearst Corp. and the differences should be addressed by a higher court.

“Application of a different standard from one adopted by this court could result in the reversal of a final judgment,” Pauley wrote. “It is the primary issue in determining defendants’ liability.”

Pauley rejected Fox’s request to delay the case during the appeal.

Former unpaid interns Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman sued Los Angeles-based Fox Searchlight in 2011 saying they and other interns should have been paid for their work. They performed routine tasks such as making deliveries, organizing file cabinets, making photocopies and taking lunch orders, they said.

Fox Searchlight obtained “an immediate advantage from Glatt and Footman’s work,” Pauley said in June, citing a six-part test used by the U.S. Labor Department to determine whether unpaid internships are legal. “Menial as it was, their work was essential.”

Pauley’s decision allowing the case to proceed toward trial helped spark other suits on behalf of unpaid interns.

The case is Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., 1:11-cv-0684, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).