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Unpaid Conde Nast Interns Hit Co. With Wage Class Action

law360.com—Dan Prochilo

The parent company of Conde Nast Publications was hit with a proposed class action by former interns for W magazine and The New Yorker who claimed the company violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws by failing to compensate them for their work.

The suit says that under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York State Labor Law, interns who are engaged in the operations of their employer or who perform productive work must receive minimum wage, but the Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. interns received about "a dollar an hour, if that."

"Our clients seek to end the wage theft endemic in the media industry," Juno Turner, one of the attorneys representing the workers, said in a statement.

The suit accused New York City-based Advance — a privately held company that owns Conde Nast Publications, Parade Publications, business journals, newspapers in more than 25 U.S. cities and a series of other publications — of relying "on a steady stream of interns to perform entry-level work" to reduce its labor costs.

According to the complaint, one of the two named plaintiffs, Lauren Ballinger, worked four days a week for W magazine from June to October 2009, and during that time she put in anywhere from 12 to 14 hours a day. Regardless of how many hours she worked, she was paid $12 a day, the suit said.

Matthew Leib, the other plaintiff, was an intern for The New Yorker during the summers of 2009 and 2010, where he reviewed submissions, answered reader emails, proofread copy and relayed documents between writers, cartoonists and editors. He was paid anywhere from $300 to $500 for each internship, the complaint said.

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The interns said Advance could be on the hook for damages exceeding $5 million, excluding costs and interest.

A representative for Advance could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

The interns were represented by Adam T. Klein, Rachel Bien, and Juno Turner of Outten & Golden LLP.

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The case is Ballinger et al v. Advance Magazine Publishers Inc., case number 1:13-cv-04036 before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.