Condé Nast may have abruptly put an end to its internship program last month, to widespread industry dismay, but the lawsuit (Ballinger et al v. Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc.) that caused the drama is still very much underway. In fact, Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib (the former W Magazine and New Yorker interns, respectively) asked the Southern District of New York Court to conditionally certify their proposed class action lawsuit this week. Ballinger and Leib claim that they, as well as a larger class of interns, were misclassified as interns, as opposed to entry level employees, and thus, were not paid for their hours worked. And this isn't the only development in the unpaid internship lawsuit spectrum. In fact, maybe more importantly for all of us, there have been two major updates ...
Diana Wang's lawsuit against Hearst (Wang v. The Hearst Corporation), which was one of the first major unpaid intern lawsuits in the fashion industry, got the go-ahead from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently. The Second Circuit accepted Wang, Erin Spencer and six other plaintiffs' joint appeal on Thursday and as a result, will hear the case that Hearst won in May. Specifically, the court will rule on the standard for determining whether unpaid interns qualify as interns or whether they are actually employees. AND ... the Court of Appeals also agreed to hear Fox's appeal in its own unpaid internship lawsuit brought by Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman (Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc.), stemming from their work on the film, Black Swan in 2011. The Second Circuit granted Fox's petition for leave to pursue an interlocutory appeal of U.S. District Judge William Pauley's decision granting class action certification to the former interns, holding that they were, in fact, employees and not interns. More to come on these cases (very likely next year). In the meantime, if you're not exactly up to speed on the three lawsuits, here are summaries of the cases to date:
Wang v. The Hearst Corporation - Diana Wang filed suit against Hearst stemming from her unpaid internship with Harper's Bazaar and thus far, it has largely been a string of losses for Wang. This spring, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer refused to hold that Hearst "willfully violated the law by failing to pay its interns" and thus, refused to grant the plaintiffs double damages under state and federal wage laws. In addition, the plaintiffs sought a ruling that they were “employees” under federal and New York law, and Baer denied this, as well. Then in May, Baer refused to certify Wang and co.'s proposed class action suit, which would have allowed interns from as early as 2006 at any of Hearst's 19 magazines to join the lawsuit. Baer rejected the bid, applying the landmark Dukes v. Walmart ruling and holding that Wang's class did not meet the standards of commonality and predominance needed to be considered a class. Wang has since moved to appeal Baer's ruling and as indicated above, the appeal has been approved by the Court of Appeals.
Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. - Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman filed suit against Fox stemming from their internships in connection with the production of the film, Black Swan. In June, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley held that the unpaid intern plaintiffs, who worked as production assistants on the film “Black Swan” in New York, were actually employees (reportedly tasked with making deliveries, organizing file cabinets, making photocopies and taking lunch orders), and thus, Fox violated federal and New York state minimum wage laws by not paying them. A month after the ruling, Fox filed an appeal, arguing that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals should identify the standard for determining whether unpaid interns are workers entitled to wages, and the Court of Appeals will hear that question.
Ballinger et al v. Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc. - Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib filed suit against Condé Nast's parent company in June, alleging that they were misclassified as interns and not paid, in violation of New York and federal laws. This summer, Condé Nast filed a motion to stay (aka hold the suit in suspension for a period of time) until the Second Circuit ruled in the the Hearst/Harper’s Bazaar internship lawsuit and the Fox Searchlight/Black Swan lawsuit, but in September, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan said that he wouldn’t stay the suit, ruling the case could go forward despite appeals on the internships’ legal status. Now, Ballinger and Leib have filed for class certification, which, if accepted, would enable former interns from Condé Nast's 25 magazine, including Vogue!!!!, to join the lawsuit. Stay tuned!