Settlement Proffered in Conde Nast Intern Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Conde Nast has agreed to fork over $5.8 million to spike a class action by interns who complained that they made “a dollar a day, if that.”
     Attorneys for the interns urged a federal judge to endorse the deal in a 25-page memorandum filed on Thursday.
     Lauren Ballinger, who worked at W Magazine, and Matthew Leib, who assisted editorial at The New Yorker, claimed in a July 2013 lawsuit that Conde Nast “relies on a steady stream of interns to perform entry-level work that contributes to its magazines’ operations and reduce its labor costs.”
     They led a class of 7,500 interns alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
     After the lawyers take their proposed 11 percent cut, amounting to $650,000, the seven-figure deal breaks down to a far smaller nest egg per intern.
     The payouts range from $700 to $1,900 per intern, depending on the type of internship and whether it included a stipend, according to the memo.
     Outten & Golden attorney Rachel Bien, representing the interns, called the settlement “fair, reasonable and adequate.”
     The deal will “avoid significant expense and delay, and instead ensure recovery for the class,” she said.
     “Although plaintiffs believe their case is strong, it is subject to risk,” Bien’s memo states.
     Part of that risk is because “the Second Circuit has not yet resolved the legal test that applies to interns,” the memo notes. “Two district courts in this circuit adopted different tests for determining whether an intern is an employee under the FLSA.”
     The memo notes that these cases are the class actions against Fox Searchlight Pictures filed by “Black Swan” interns, who achieved certification; and another against the Hearst Corp. by their magazine interns, whose case was dismissed.
     “Two very different outcomes resulted in these cases – in one, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs; in the other, the court denied summary judgment,” the memo states. “These very different outcomes demonstrate the uncertainty that the parties face. The proposed settlement alleviates this uncertainty. This factor therefore weighs in favor of preliminary approval.”
     Conde Nast has not returned a request for comment left after business hours Friday.

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