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  • 'Black Swan' Intern Lawsuit Proceeds, Striking Blow Against Unpaid Labor In Film

    Former "Black Swan" interns Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman won a small skirmish in their court battle with Fox Searchlight this morning when Judge William H. Pauley III allowed them to file a motion to amend their suit to expand the plaintiff class to include everyone who has worked as an unpaid intern at Fox Entertainment Group for the past several years.

    Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with Outten and Golden, the firm representing the plaintiffs, told The Huffington Post that Pauley set the deadline for the motion at Sept. 5, and that he said he would rule on it at a hearing on Oct. 9. She said Pauley encouraged Fox's legal team not to contest the motion.

    Pauley also ruled today that Fox would have to give the plaintiffs an email the company sent to all former unpaid interns, which the plaintiffs say was designed to coerce them not to join the lawsuit.

    The results of today's court conference have no inherent bearing on the central legal questions in the case -- namely, whether Fox violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by refusing to pay its interns. But the rulings increase the chances of hundreds or even thousands of past interns joining the suit and demanding back pay. As such, they support the mission that Glatt, 43, says was central to his decision to sue Fox Searchlight: doing away with unpaid internships altogether.

    "I want to see the practice ended," Glatt told The Huffington Post. "I think unpaid internships are extremely detrimental to the labor market, and especially pernicious in creative industries."

    Glatt said that he feels a big problem with unpaid internships is that they disrupt the labor market for entry-level workers by forcing people at the beginning of their careers to work for no pay and suppressing wages for people who have been on the job for several years.

    John Williams, the founder of non-profit Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, which mentors underprivileged youth to prepare them for work in the film industry, said he thinks that the practice is skewing the entire industry away from equal representation.

    "If you're a poor kid, or you can't afford to work for free, and people are saying you should work for free, that's going to favor kids who can do that, whose parents can pay their bills for years. It probably has an impact on how diverse the film industry is," Williams said.
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