This week, a judge will review four interns' claims in order to determine whether they can file a class-action lawsuit against Fox Entertainment Group. The interns claim that the company violated several minimum wage and overtime laws before changing its unpaid internship program in July 2010.
It is not illegal for employers to offer unpaid internships in Los Angeles and throughout the entire U.S. However, these programs are not always operated in lawful manners. Employers often make mistakes in how they classify workers and interns, and some employers do so intentionally in order to avoid paying interns for their hard work.
A lawsuit was originally filed last year against Fox Searchlight. Two interns who had worked on the film Black Swan claimed that they should have been paid for the type of work they were asked to do. Although the interns were required to fill out the same paperwork as paid employees, the interns were not paid for their work.
After the two Black Swan interns filed their lawsuit, two interns who worked on other projects stepped forward with similar claims against Fox Entertainment Group. Now the four interns claim that Fox Entertainment Group's entire unpaid internship program was illegal. The former interns want to file a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of all unpaid interns who had worked at the company before it made changes to its program two years ago.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies can offer unpaid internship programs as long as a program has an educational component. Companies are also prohibited from using interns to replace paid employees. The former interns for Fox Entertainment Group claim that they were wrongfully denied important benefits even though their work was heavily relied upon by the company. The company started offering a paid internship program in July 2010.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Fox's Entire Internship Program Now Under Legal Attack," Eriq Gardner, Aug. 13, 2012