Fed-Up Interns Take Office Grievances to Court

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In addition, two former interns filed a lawsuit against Condé Nast June 13, claiming the company did not pay them minimum wage during their summer jobs at W Magazine and The New Yorker in 2009 and 2010.

Conde Nast has not responded to a request for comment.

While the judge acknowledged in the "Black Swan" decision that the interns benefitted from the internship with resume listings, job references and "an understanding of how a production office works," he said Fox Searchlight ultimately "received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees."

Fox spokesman Chris Petrikin has said in a statement that the company believes the court's rulings are "erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed by the [U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals] as quickly as possible."

Collins, of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, said it's unclear why the spate of lawsuits by unpaid interns targeted media-related companies.

Eisenbrey said in his experience, some media companies claim to be unaware of labor laws when it comes to internships. But the same companies also attract individuals seeking to get their foot in the door anyway they can, he said.

"It's a combination of the glamour factor and the willingness of the companies to flout the law or their ignorance of it," he said.

Eisenbrey said he hopes the recent cases will encourage all companies adhere to the law.

"If this little ripple became a wave, I think that could change employer behavior," he said. "If it became a wave and employers across the country had to really worry about employment law, then they would stop using [unpaid interns]," he said.

"In the alternative, the Labor Department could bring some high-profile cases against [companies] for using unpaid interns."

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