In the midst of Diana Wang's ongoing lawsuit against Hearst for unpaid intern wages, comes news of another media intern lawsuit--this time against Conde Nast. Two former interns filed suit against Conde Nast on Thursday, alleging that the company failed to pay them minimum wage, the New York Times is reporting. Plaintiffs Lauren Ballinger, who interned at W Magazine, and Matthew Leib, who worked for the The New Yorker, are asking to move forward with a class-action lawsuit. What makes them slightly different from Wang is that each were paid--Ballinger a paltry $12 per day, Leib $300-$500 for each summer he interned--rather than receiving school credit, as is the norm at many of these institutions.
And with the AP reporting yesterday that a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of former interns who sued Fox Searchlight Pictures, the end of unpaid internships everywhere could very well be imminent. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that Fox "violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie Black Swan." Pauley wrote in his ruling:
Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works. But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them.
Further, Pauley ruled that the Fox interns may proceed as a class-action lawsuit. So even though Wang's attempt at a class action suit was thrown out last month, this new lawsuit against Conde Nast may succeed where Wang's failed.
Of course, as the difference between the Fox ruling and the one in Wang's case shows, the final decision comes down to the individual judge's interpretation of the existing laws. Still, many rulings in these cases also take into account precedent, which means there's still hope for unpaid interns with the latest ruling from Judge Pauley.
The end of unpaid internships would mark a huge change in the industry; we'll be following this case closely.