In a ruling on Tuesday, Judge Pauley granted the motion of two unpaid movie studio interns for a judgment that they were “employees” covered by federal and state labor laws. Judge Pauley found that the interns, who worked on the production of the movie Black Swan, did not meet the definition of “trainees” exempted from the labor laws because the work they did benefited the studios and was similar to work done by paid employees, rather than work that was designed to educate and benefit them.
Considering the totality ofthe circumstances, Glatt and Footman were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are “employees” covered by the FLSA and NYLL. They worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer and perfonning low-level tasks not requiring specialized training. The benefits they may have received-such as knowledge ofhow a production or accounting office functions or references for future jobs-are the results of simply having worked as any other employee works, not of internships designed to be uniquely educational to the interns and oflittle utility to the employer. They received nothing approximating the education they would receive in an academic setting or vocational school. This is a far cry from Walling [v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947)], where trainees impeded the regular business of the employer, worked only in their own interest, and provided no advantage to the employer. Glatt and Footman do not fall within the narrow “trainee” exception to the FLSA’s broad coverage.
Judge Pauley also granted the motion of another plaintiff seeking certification of a class of plaintiffs consisting of unpaid studio interns with claims under New York labor laws and conditional certification of a collective action under the FLSA. For more on this decision, see this New York Times article.