NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Condé Nast agreed on Thursday to pay $5.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of former interns at the publisher who said they were underpaid for work at the company’s high-end magazines.
The settlement agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, covers around 7,500 interns at Condé Nast magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair. The case is one in a wave of recent suits brought against media and entertainment companies that pay little or nothing for internships.
Condé Nast canceled its internship program soon after the lawsuit was filed in June 2013.
Lauren Ballinger, who worked for approximately $1 per hour organizing accessories in the fashion closet at W Magazine, and Matthew Leib, who earned around $300 for a summer internship at the New Yorker, were the two lead plaintiffs in the case.
“We do think this is a favorable settlement,” one of the interns’ attorneys, Rachel Bien, said.
Former interns dating back as far as June 2007 are expected to receive payments ranging from $700 to $1,900, according to the settlement.
Condé Nast Chief Executive Officer Chuck Townsend, in an internal email to staff about the settlement, said he still believed the company’s magazine internships “were among the best in the media business.”
“Settling the lawsuit is the right business decision for Condé Nast, as it allows us to focus our time and resources on developing meaningful, new opportunities to support future up-and-coming talent,” he said in the email.
NBCUniversal, Warner Music Group and Hearst publishers have all been sued over similar claims.
The Condé Nast suit was filed just two days after a judge found that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated labor laws when it used unpaid interns for production tasks on “Black Swan,” the 2010 film starring Natalie Portman. The decision is being appealed.
The case is Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib v. Advance Magazine Publishers Inc, d/b/a Condé Nast Publications, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 13-4036. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi)
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