In the latest development in the unpaid interns lawsuit against Fox Entertainment Group, the company has convinced a judge to limit the timeframe for qualifying class members, though failed in its bid to remove two units of the company from the suit.
The most common accusation is that companies hire unpaid interns to work effectively as employees.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III agreed to Fox’s reconsideration bid to define the qualifying period for class membership as June 11, 2010 – September 1, 2010. Individuals who worked as interns for Fox during this time will be able to seek unpaid wages against the company under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The judge refused, however, to remove Fox Group and Fox Interactive Media (newly named News Corp Digital Media) from the case’s defined groups. The company had argued that these particular entities weren’t defendants and so allowing claims against them violated due process rights and would risk undue prejudice. Judge Pauley disagreed on the grounds that the case was being brought against Fox Entertainment group as whole, as a joint employer of the plaintiffs. The alleged FLSA violations occurred in multiple divisions of the company, the suit claims.
Intern Eden Antalik had initially been given approval to conditionally certify a class that included all those working for Fox since September 28, 2008 or three years before the filing. However, Antalik didn’t actually join the case until an amended complaint was filed in October 2012. The court’s decision found that it was appropriate to alter the dates to the more limited range.
A representative for the plaintiffs said they were ready to proceed following this ruling. The lawsuit dates back to September 2011 when the interns first took action against Fox Searchlight Pictures, and has sparked a slew of lawsuits under the FLSA. The most common accusation is that companies hire unpaid interns to work effectively as employees, often performing menial tasks and receiving no training, in violation of the Department of Labor’s six requirements for unpaid internships.
Fox is now seeking the right to appeal the class certification, as well as a definition from the appeal court of what does and does not constitute an unpaid internship, rather than an employee position.