They work until 11 at night, lug 40-pound garment bags throughout the city and get scolded for not adhering tape to mood boards correctly. And yet being a Condé Nast intern remains one of the most coveted, sought-after unpaid jobs in town.
To an aspiring media-ite, a Condé internship is a stiletto stacked in prestige wrapped in promises of opportunity. It is a fancy incubator for future media power players: Fashion designer Whitney Port, author Lauren Conrad and beauty blogger Emily Weiss all got their start interning at the media mammoth.
So you can imagine the surprise when, last month, Condé Nast announced it was terminating its internship program. Starting in 2014, Condé publications including Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair will no longer give students the opportunity to toil — and learn — in their hallowed halls.
The bold decision came on the heels of a lawsuit filed in June 2012 by two former Condé interns: Matthew Leib, who interned at The New Yorker in 2009 and 2010, and Lauren Ballinger, who worked at W magazine in 2009.
The two sued the media conglomerate for failing to pay them minimum wage — claiming that their measly stipend amounted to less than $1 an hour for their unpaid internships.
“The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law do not allow employers to allow workers to work for free — even if the workers give their consent,” says Leib and Ballinger’s attorney, Rachel Bien at Outten & Golden.
“Internships, like those at Condé Nast, that involve performing the same kinds of work that employees perform and provide no training beyond on-the-job training that employees receive are not lawful,” she adds.
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