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Fox To Pay Ex-Interns $495 Each In Standard-Setting Deal

Jul 12, 2016 / Media Coverage / Law360 — Daniel Siegal

Fox has reached a deal in a class action brought by former unpaid interns alleging they should have been classified as employees, which sparked a host of similar suits, agreeing to pay $495 to each class member, according to settlement documents filed Tuesday in New York federal court.

In a motion for settlement approval and supporting memorandum, five former unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group Inc. asked U.S. District Judge William Pauley to approve the deal, which will see the entertainment company pay $495 to every intern who files a claim showing they interned without pay for at least two weeks between 2005 and 2010. Potentially 139 interns will be eligible for payments under the settlement ending the suit filed by named plaintiff Eric Glatt and others.

A similar settlement was also filed in a related, later-filed suit by named plaintiff Christopher MacKown that brought the same claims against Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. That settlement would provide payments of $495 for up to 557 interns who worked in California.

The plaintiffs urged Judge Pauley to approve the settlement, pointing out that the Second Circuit earlier this year reversed his prior ruling granting class certification and partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs, which greatly increased the risk of the moving forward with the suit.

“The Second Circuit’s primary beneficiary standard and its decertification of the class and collective present significant risk to plaintiffs on the merits and with regard to certification,” the plaintiffs argued. “The Second Circuit’s decision, despite its revised language in the amended opinion, makes class and collective certification extremely challenging. ... This risk strongly supports the settlement because, under it, all class members who make a claim will be paid.”

The lawsuit dates back to September 2010, when named plaintiffs Glatt and Alexander Footman sued Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. The duo, who worked on the set of “Black Swan,” claimed Fox Searchlight was essentially using the free labor provided by the interns to keep costs down. Later, Judge Pauley expanded the scope of the litigation, granting a request to include corporate intern Eden Antalik, who worked for Fox Entertainment Group, as a plaintiff, as well as another intern, Kanene Gratts.

In June 2013, Judge Pauley ruled that Fox misclassified the plaintiffs under the Fair Labor Standards Act when it did not call them employees, saying the unpaid interns provided free labor but got little of educational value when they worked on “Black Swan” — a movie produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. — and Fox appealed to the Second Circuit.

MacKown filed his class action against the defendants in June 2013 making similar claims, and that suit was deemed related and stayed pending the appeal in the Glatt case.

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On Tuesday, the plaintiffs asked Judge Pauley to end the suit and asked that he approve payments of $3,500 to $7,500 for the named plaintiffs, except for Gratts, who has chosen not to participate in the settlement. The Glatt settlement also allows the plaintiffs' attorneys to apply for up to $200,000 in attorneys' fees, and the MacKown settlement allows for up to $60,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Glatt and Footman's suit led unpaid interns at other major media companies to bring a string of similar class actions that challenged the common practice.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Rachel Bien and Sally J. Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP.

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The cases are Glatt et al. v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. and MacCown v. Fox, case number 1:11-cv-06784 and 1:13-cv-04406 respectively, both in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Patrick Boyle and Stewart Bishop. Editing by Philip Shea.

Correction: A prior story misstated the number of class members potentially covered by the settlements. The error has been corrected.

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