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Unpaid interns sue Fox Searchlight Pictures under FLSA

Enforcing your employment rights as an unpaid intern can be a sticky issue. Two unpaid interns who provided their services to Fox Searchlight Pictures during the production of the movie "The Black Swan" have filed a lawsuit against the film company for failing to pay minimum wage and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The two unpaid interns who worked on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Black Swan" have filed a class action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures. According to the lawsuit, Fox Searchlight is able to reduce its production costs through the use of unpaid interns and the help of unpaid interns allowed the company to produce the movie for $13 million while "The Black Swan" grossed over $300 million around the world.

Court documents say the unpaid interns were central to production work as they worked as production assistants, bookkeepers, secretaries and janitors. The two unpaid interns who filed the lawsuit made coffee, took lunch orders and removed garbage as a part of their duties. According to the one of the unpaid intern's attorney, those duties were the same duties that paid production assistants performed.

The two unpaid interns who filed the lawsuit are seeking minimum wage back pay for themselves and for more than 100 other unpaid interns who worked on the movie as well as overtime back pay. The unpaid interns are also seeking compensation for the work use of their personal computers and cellphones.

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Alan Olson practices employment law throughout the United States from his offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Attorney Olson may be contacted at [email protected] with questions about the information posted here or for advice on specific FLSA claims.

Sometimes students looking to gain work experience are too intimidated to assert their workers' rights when it comes to internships. The attorney for one of the plaintiffs put it in another way and said people who are out of work in today's economy feel that they need to distinguish themselves even if that is working for free and companies can exploit that.

Source: bottomline.msnbc.msn.com, "Unpaid interns strike back by suing Fox," Marisa Taylor, Sept. 30, 2011

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