Presumably buoyed by the district court ruling in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82079 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2013), a number of copy-cat lawsuits have been filed by former entertainment industry interns in recent weeks in the Southern District of New York’s Manhattan courthouse seeking unpaid wages. Salaam, et al. v. Bad Boy Entertainment Inc., et al., S.D.N.Y. Case No. 13-CV-5822; O’Jeda, et al. v. MTV Networks Music Production Inc., et al. S.D.N.Y. Case No. 13-CV-5658. While Glatt provided support for intern claims seeking allegedly unpaid minimum wages and overtime, the law is not well settled, and the direction it takes will be largely informed by the Second Circuit’s ruling in another high profile earlier-filed action, Xuedan Wang v. Hearst Corp., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65869 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2013), in which a different Southern District judge formulated a “totality of circumstances” test for determining whether an intern truly was an employee under the wage laws, and further found the claims of the named Plaintiff inappropriate for class action treatment.
Employers with intern populations should craft policies regarding interns, volunteers or other unpaid service providers with a full understanding of both applicable federal and state law, as well as the current litigation trend.