What happens when unpaid internships become illegal? Conde Nast Ends Internship Program

October 23rd, 2013

Is this at all surprising?

Only four months later, two former Condé Nast interns—Lauren Ballinger, an intern at magazine in 2009, and Matthew Leib, an intern at The New Yorker in 2009 and 2010—filed their own lawsuits against the publishing conglomerate. Their lawsuit is also still pending.

Following the aforementioned suits, Condé Nast revamped their internship program, enforcing stricter regulations that limited the hours interns could work, provided a semester stipend, and ensured students were partaking in job-related tasks, not personal errands. With new rules being put in place only half a year ago, it’s surprising that Condé Nast would take the plunge to eliminate the program completely.

And Conde Naste is not some bastion of Milton Friedman or F.A. Hayek fans. These are a bunch of progressives–though who are, never forget, in business.

So now, instead of students working for free for a months over the summer, and taking a serious hit, they will all lose the ability to gain experience at a leading industry empire.

Although current Condé Nast interns will not be affected by the company’s decision, its choice to eliminate the internship program could have serious implications on both students and the industry. Eliminating major magazines including Vogue, W, GQ, Vanity Fair, GlamourLuckyAllure, and Teen Vogue (sorry, budding Lauren Conrads of the world) as potential employers could hinder the experience budding fashion journalists and editors may need—especially since most industry insiders cite interning as the number one way to break into fashion. On the company side, a lack of interns could definitely slow down the operations of the fast-paced magazine environment. Interns are utilized for a variety of vital—although medial and time-consuming tasks—including sample handling and trafficking, assisting with market appointments, and assisting on photo shoots.

And as a practical matter, those with influence will still be able to gain positions with Conde Naste. Those without, will find it even harder to break into the field. I suspect other dominos will fall, as employment for millenials becomes even tougher.

I’ve blogged about the implications of ending unpaid internships many times over the years: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.