A former intern at W Magazine was paid less than $1 dollar an hour, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday against Condé Nast, The New York Times reports.
Lauren Ballinger told the Times her summer 2009 internship at Condé Nast's W Magazine was worse than what was depicted in "The Devil Wears Prada," a film about a magazine editor's personal assistant, "because we don't get any makeover in the end." Ballinger claims in the suit that she frequently worked 12-hour days or longer, for a pay of $12 a day in W's accessories and fine jewelry departments.
The Times reports she saved one credit before graduating from the American University of Paris to use toward the internship, and as the university charges 812 euros per credit (or a little more than $1,000), Ballinger would've needed to work 90 days just to break even. And that doesn't even factor in the cost of housing in New York City.
The lawsuit by Ballinger and former New Yorker intern Matthew Leib is seeking class-action status on behalf of other interns who worked at Condé Nast magazines and were paid below minimum wage, according to the Associated Press.
The Atlantic Wire reported last month that a judge denied class-action status to a similar suit by former unpaid interns at Hearst.
Condé Nast declined to comment to the Times, Reuters and the AP. The company did announce reforms to its internship programs in 2012, and now requires interns to report unreasonably long hours, prevents them from working past 7 p.m. and guarantees a stipend of around $550 per semester, according to Fashionista.
But why would someone file a lawsuit after completing a high-profile internship?
Eric Glatt recently won a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures over his unpaid internship on the set of "Black Swan," and he explained on HuffPost Live that he took action after reading about the criteria for unpaid internships and concluding his internship violated federal labor laws.
Federal law requires that the experience be "for the benefit of the intern," and that the employer can derive "no immediate advantage" from the intern's presence.
"I realized this ugly business that I'd seen left and right in all kinds of culture production industries ... it just became crystal clear it was a violation of the law, and I decided to file a lawsuit," Glatt said.
A 2012 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that people who take paid internships were more likely to receive job offers in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Paid interns were also more likely to spend their time on "professional duties," as opposed to "clerical and non-essential functions."
A statement from attorneys representing Ballinger and Lieb said the suit seeks to recover unpaid wages, interest and attorneys' fees and costs.