Black Swan Interns Sue Over Having to Make Coffee
They should have been paid for non-educational tasks, they argue
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2011 10:22 AM CDT
In this film publicity image released by Fox Searchlight, Natalie Portman is shown in a scene from "Black Swan." The film was nominated for   (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Niko Tavernise)

(Newser) – Conventional wisdom states that being an unpaid intern means making an awful lot of coffee, but two such interns decided not to take that sort of treatment lying down. Alex Footman and Eric Glatt are suing Fox Searchlight Pictures over their Black Swan internships, claiming that the production company violated minimum wage and overtime laws by assigning only menial—not educational—tasks to the interns. Such tasks should have been performed by paid employees, they argue; labor rules require employers to provide an educational experience in order to be exempted from paying interns.

Specifically, Footman says he was in charge of coffee, lunch orders, and janitorial tasks, while Glatt did accounting work, the New York Times reports. They want class-action status for their lawsuit because, they allege, Fox Searchlight has used more than 100 such interns on various productions. But the blogosphere is largely unimpressed:

  • So they’re suing over being forced to make coffee and take lunch orders … “in other words, regular intern stuff?” writes Margaret Hartmann on Jezebel.
  • “Interns Sue Black Swan for Making Them Do Intern Things,” declares New York magazine’s Vulture blog. “Scott Rudin is laughing right now at these ‘indignities,’ so hard,” writes Kyle Buchanan. Footman should look on the bright side: He did learn something, namely, “how Natalie Portman likes her coffee.”
  • Just accept it, suggests Adrian Chen on Gawker: “If you want to make money as an intern in Hollywood you'll have to draw on some old-fashioned American ingenuity and start a side-racket selling pieces of garbage you pick out of celebrities' dressing room trash on eBay.”