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Conde Nast ends internship program amid lawsuits

Earlier this year, we reported on a ruling against Fox Entertainment Group in which a judge determined that interns who worked on the Oscar-winning film “Black Swan” should have been paid at least minimum wage. (The ruling is being appealed.) At the time, we said there were a number of similar lawsuits in the works. We noted the implicit discrimination of unpaid internships against young people who did not have the financial resources to work for little or no money in order to gain experience in the entertainment industry. Both industries are notoriously difficult to break into.

Now publishing giant Conde Nast, after a lawsuit by two interns who say they were paid less than minimum wage, has announced that it will discontinue its internship program next year. Conde Nast publishes widely-read magazines including Vogue, Glamour and The New Yorker.

This skittishness of Conde Nast, and likely other companies down the road, about bring in interns is not good news to the many young people who see internships as the only way to get a foot in the door of cut-throat industries. USA Today reported that many former interns have expressed dismay that this decision will be detrimental to college students who aspire to a career in the ever-shrinking world of publishing. One of those young people who started as an intern is set to become the new editor-in-chief of Fashionista, one of Conde Nast’s own magazines.

The U.S. Department of Labor has set guidelines regarding the payment of interns. They are required to be paid at least minimum wage by for-profit companies unless a number of guidelines are met. Essentially, the internship is supposed to be for the benefit of the intern and not the company. If it is not, the intern is required to be fairly compensated. These guidelines have been widely ignored over the years.

Now, with this proliferation of lawsuits, companies that have long run in no small part on the hard work, long hours and high energy of ambitious young people, may decide they would rather scrap them than pay minimum wage. If they do, industries like entertainment and publishing will likely become even more closed and filled with nepotism.

CBS News, “Conde Nast ends internship program: Will others follow suit?” Suzanne Lucas, Oct. 24, 2013

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