ONE-SHOT DEAL: Condé Nast has settled its widely publicized “unpaid intern” lawsuit.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The suit, also known as Ballinger vs. Advance Magazine Publishers Inc., was filed in the Southern District of New York by former W Magazine intern Lauren Ballinger and former New Yorker intern Matthew Leib. The former interns claimed they were paid below minimum wage when working for the Condé Nast titles. The lawsuit quickly garnered media attention once it was filed last June. Five months later, Condé Nast decided to discontinue its unpaid intern program.
“We are, and have always been, extremely proud of the internship experiences that were offered at Condé Nast,” said Condé Nast chief executive officer Charles Townsend on Friday. “Our internships were considered some of the best in the industry, providing students with unparalleled learning opportunities outside of the classroom. The training and contacts our interns received at Condé Nast helped many begin successful careers here and elsewhere.”
The ceo added that “settling the lawsuit at this time is the right business decision for Condé Nast. The settlement will allow us to devote our time and resources towards developing meaningful, new opportunities to support up-and-coming talent.”
Details were not available regarding the terms of the settlement. A spokesman from Condé Nast declined to comment on whether the settlement would impact the status of the defunct internship program.
The Condé Nast suit is just one among a string of similar litigations filed by disgruntled interns. In 2012, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern sued Hearst Magazines, claiming the publication violated minimum wage and overtime laws. A judge dismissed that case, but the intern appealed the ruling. The litigation is still unresolved. Hearst did not reply to requests seeking comment on the case and the status of its internship program in view of Condé’s settlement.
A larger and perhaps more impactful case on Condé Nast’s decision to settle is the Fox Searchlight Pictures litigation. Also filed in New York federal court, the class-action suit claimed that Fox violated federal and state minimum wage laws by not paying production interns working on its “Black Swan” film. In June, the presiding judge ruled that the unpaid interns were employees, which was quickly appealed by Fox. While the case is still in progress, it has raised the question over the legal definition of an intern, and whether they are entitled to wages under the Federal Labor Standards Act.