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Since the NYLL's definition of employment is nearly identical to the FLSA's, courts in this circuit have held that the New York Labor Law embodies the same standard for employment as the FLSA. The analysis for the trainee exception to the NYLL is the same as that for the FLSA.
Plaintiffs Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman were unpaid interns who worked on the production of the film in New York. After production ended, plaintiff Glatt took a second unpaid internship relating to the film’s post-production. Plaintiff Kanene Gratts was also an unpaid intern who worked on a production of the film in California. Plaintiff Eden Antalik was an unpaid intern at Searchlight's corporate offices in New York. Defendant Fox Entertainment Group was the parent corporation of approximately 800 subsidiaries, including co-defendant Searchlight. Its co-defendant produced and distributed feature films but did not produce the films themselves. Rather, it entered into Production Agreements with corporations created for the sole purpose of producing particular films. Plaintiff Antalik claimed that she was part of a centralized unpaid internship program in which unpaid interns at defendant’s subsidiaries were subject to a single set of policies administered by a small team of intern recruiters. She maintained that two employees oversaw defendant’s internship program during the relevant periods and their responsibilities included soliciting intern request forms from supervisors at subsidiaries interested in hiring interns, approving those requests, screening internship applicants, and processing interns' paperwork. According to plaintiff, she and the members of her proposed class and collective action were victims of a common policy of using unpaid interns to perform work that required them to be paid. Defendants denied that there was any centralized internship program. They argued that internships varied considerably among its various subsidiaries and departments, and interns' experiences were shaped by the particular supervisors they were matched with. Plaintiffs then brought this putative class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, New York Labor Law, and California Unfair Competition Law against the defendants and contended that the defendants violated federal and state labor laws by classifying them as unpaid interns instead of paid employees. Defendants move for summary judgment that plaintiffs were not employed by them, that the claims were time-barred, and that the co-defendant did not employ any of the production interns on five films financed by it.
Were the plaintiffs covered by Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law?
The Court held that a Department of Labor fact sheet helped to determine whether interns at for-profit businesses fall within this trainee exception. The Fact Sheet noted that the Supreme Court has held that the term suffer or permit to work cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction, it also enumerated six criteria for determining whether an internship may be unpaid. It also held that this exclusion from the definition of employment was necessarily quite narrow because the Fair Labor Standards Act 's definition of 'employ' was very broad. Moreover, the Department of Labor factors were promulgated by the agency charged with administering the Fair Labor Standards Act and were a reasonable application of it, they are entitled to deference. Thus, since the New York Labor Law 's definition of employment was nearly identical to the FLSA's, courts in this circuit have held that the New York Labor Law embodied the same standard for employment as the FLSA. The analysis for the trainee exception to the NYLL was the same as that for the FLSA.