In a move that may signal the beginning of the end for unpaid internships, the U.S. magazine publisher Condé Nast is planning to scrap its internship program.
A spokesman for the company confirmed the decision with International Business Times but declined to comment further. The news was first reported on Wednesday by Women’s Wear Daily, a Condé Nast property.
Condé Nast is one of numerous media companies that have been sued by former interns over the last two years. Former interns at two of its publications -- W magazine and the New Yorker -- filed suit in June of this year, just days after a Manhattan federal judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated wage laws when it failed to pay interns on the set of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.”
In light of growing criticism of unpaid internships, the decision to ax the program is bound to invite charges that Condé Nast is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The internship movement has exploded since the Fox Searchlight case, and no shortage of defenders have suggested that, rather than risk litigation, businesses will simply discontinue internship programs altogether, thereby further denying young people access to competitive industries.
However, Conde’s move may also be seen as a tacit acknowledgment that it could simply not operate a legal internship program under the confines of current labor laws. In order to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, businesses may not hire interns to do the work of regular employees. Presumably, Condé Nast will still need workers to perform the countless tasks required of its interns. Going forward, the company will either have to hire entry-level employees to fill the void or divide those chores among current staffers.
Reactions to the news on social media have been mixed, but many seemed to take the attitude that this is no great loss to the media industry.
So many people sad that Conde Nast will never get the chance to exploit them.
— Alex Abad-Santos (@alex_abads) October 23, 2013
+ corporations like Conde Nast. They've been exploiting interns for years, and I'm glad someone stood up & said enough. @theREDDbandit
— Evette Dionne (@EvetteDionne) October 23, 2013
— Sherina (@sherina_motwani) October 23, 2013
Others defended Condé’s program as an enriching experience.
It's too bad Condé Nast ended its internship program, because personally I had an educationally enriching experience at mine over the summer
— Aimee Hirsch (@AimeeHirsch) October 23, 2013
Sad to hear Conde killed its internship program entirely. My first internship there (at WWD) was invaluable http://t.co/tYOL7fvhsG.
— Julie Zeveloff (@jzeveloff) October 23, 2013
Still others took the opportunity to chastise the interns who turned to the courts to seek a fair wage.
— ALIZA LICHT (@alizalicht) October 23, 2013
The internship lawsuit at Condé Nast is still pending. The company, which publishes many of the country’s most recognizable magazine titles, is owned by the privately held Advance Publications Inc.