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Federal Judge Rules Unpaid Interns Have Workers’ Comp Rights

July 21st, 2013 at 12:35 pm

New York and Los Angeles may still be the major hubs for film production, but Chicago is becoming an ever-increasingly popular place for productions of any scale. In fact, 2010, according to the Chicago Tribune, was a record year for film and television in Illinois. “According to figures released by the Illinois Film Office,” reports the Tribune, “$161 million was spent in the state in 2010, thanks to big-budge movies such as the [then] forthcoming “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and the Fox television police drama “The Chicago Code”.” The previous high was significantly lower than that, at $155 million in 2007, before the economic downturn. This is all great news for employers and employees in the Illinois film and television sector, of course, but with new employment comes regulation. And with a new ruling that just came down regarding temporary film and television employees and worker’s compensation in New York, Chicago industry executives have a bit more to think about.  Federal Judge Rules Unpaid Interns Have Worker’s Comp Rights IMAGE

From 2009 to 2010, two interns, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, worked on the film “Black Swan,” shooting in New York City, according to ABC News. “Neither Glatt, who said he worked in accounting, nor Footman, who said he was in the production office, received pay or college credit while working on the film in New York,” reports ABC. While the job was billed as an unpaid internship, Glatt and Footman sued the production in 2011.

In June 2013, a Federal Judge ruled that they were, in fact, employees, and thus should have the same worker’s compensation and labor rights as any other employee. The complaint said that “in misclassifying many of its workers as unpaid interns, Fox Searchlight has denied them the benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance, sexual harassment and discrimination protections, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

For employers in the Illinois film and television industry, this ruling can serve as a warning, but it could have judicial ramifications that outreach just the film industry. If you or someone you know has been denied worker’s compensation benefits on an unpaid internship, you may have a case. Contact a dedicated worker’s compensation lawyer today.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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