The landmark 2013 decision in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures that interns on two film production crews were entitled to payment with actual wages has opened the litigation floodgates. In the hotly debated ruling, Judge William H. Pauley III held that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying its interns.
In the latest example of the ongoing debate over the use of unpaid interns, television’s Wendy Williams Show and production company Lionsgate have been sued for wages by a former intern, Anthony Tart, to certify a class of approximately 100 interns who worked on the popular talk show.
Tart’s complaint alleges that the production companies involved benefited from the unpaid interns’ work but provided the interns no academic or vocational training, and it would have required hiring employees in the absence of the interns. Tart’s duties included washing dishes, getting coffee, picking up art supplies, and throwing out garbage.
The Glatt case reasoned:
[Glatt and Footman] worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer and performed low-level tasks not requiring specialized training. The benefits they may have received — such as the knowledge of how 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 of little utility to the employer. … [I]n order to qualify as a trainee, an intern must receive training similar to what would’ve been provided in an educational facility and must do work primarily for his or her own benefit, not the employer’s.
The Glatt decision is currently under appeal. Mr. Tart is represented by Lloyd Ambinder at Virginia & Ambinder and Jeffrey Brown at Leeds Brown, who’ve represented interns in similar lawsuits. If the decision is overturned, Mr. Tart’s legal action may fail as a matter of law.