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Conde Nast Nixes All Internships After Lawsuit

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By Betty Wang, JD on October 24, 2013 5:35 PM

After being sued by ex-interns, Conde Nast has decided to end its internship program for good. That means the current group of interns will be the last at Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, among many other titles.

This decision comes on the heels of a lawsuit involving two former Conde Nast interns who sued the publication giant, claiming they were paid below minimum wage as required by law. The case is still pending, The New York Times reports.

While some may feel like this move is a bit drastic, this serves as a good reminder for businesses of all sizes when hiring interns, whether they're paid or unpaid.

Unpaid Interns Are Legal Under Certain Conditions

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), under the Fair Labor Standards Act, unpaid interns are allowed. However, according to the DOL, interns cannot be treated as or substituted for regular employees without being paid at least the state or federal minimum wage.

What's the difference between a regular employee and an intern? Employees are hired to carry out functions in the course of the normal workforce. Interns, on the other hand, are more temporary members of the company, who are primarily meant to be there for more of a learning experience.

A good rule of thumb is to ask whether the intern's duties and tasks are solely for the benefit of the business, and whether one of your regular employees could be performing the same function.

Ex-Intern Lawsuits: A Trend?

Conde Nast had actually issued new mandates last year for its unpaid internships, mirroring the DOL's unpaid internship guidelines. It should also be noted that many Conde Nast interns are indeed paid -- though the two ex-interns who sued are claiming they weren't paid enough.

So if Conde Nast was making legitimate efforts to comply with the law, why cut the internship program altogether? It seems the company is likely trying to play it safe, to ensure that similar lawsuits by ex-interns -- paid or unpaid -- never crop up again.

Conde Nast is also not the only company involved with ex-intern lawsuits. Recently, Gawker Media, NBC Universal, and Fox Searchlight Pictures have been sued as well.

Does your business work with any interns? To make sure that you are complying with federal and state laws when it comes to compensation, it may be wise to consult with an experienced employment law attorney near you.

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