After months of organizing accessories and fetching coffee for little to no pay, former Condé Nast interns are having the last laugh.
Condé Nast agreed on Thursday to pay $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 7,500 former interns, reports Reuters. The interns, who worked at magazines including the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair, alleged the publisher failed to pay them minimum wage.
The magazine publisher's famous internship program was canceled in 2013, soon after Lauren Ballinger, who worked as an intern at W Magazine in 2009, and Matthew Leib, who interned at The New Yorker in 2009 and 2010, filed the lawsuit. Ballinger and Leib said they were paid less than $1 per hour.
While one of the interns' attorney's reportedly said that the settlement was "favorable," a $5.8 million payout is a lot less impressive when divvied up amongst thousands of former interns. Former Condé Nast interns dating back as far as June 2007 are expected to receive payments ranging from $700 to $1,900.
The case against Condé Nast is just one of a number of lawsuits filed against companies with unpaid internship programs, including NBCUniversal, Warner Music Group and Hearst. Today, many companies are trying to dodge lawsuits by paying interns, including NBCUniversal. Others, such as Harper’s Magazine, Salon and Hearst, have stuck with the unpaid model.
The Condé Nast lawsuit helped start a national conversation on the ethics of unpaid internships, raising questions about whether internships have become more about money than experience. While unpaid internships, no matter how useful, are criticized for excluding students who cannot afford to work an unpaid, full-time internship, the canceling of intern programs at Condé Nast arguably robbed hundreds of aspiring journalists of a leg up in the publishing industry.
Tell Us: Is campaigning against unpaid internships worth the loss, or should all businesses make their internships economically feasible for all applicants?