The battle between the ex-Black Swan interns and Fox Searchlight continues in the courts and the ICM Partners case is heading to mediation, but one more interns lawsuit seems to have come to an end. “Subject to Court approval, Plaintiffs Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib and Defendant Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc. d/b/a Condé Nast Publications have settled this wage and hour class and collective action for a Maximum Settlement Amount of $5,850,000.00,” declared a filing in federal court yesterday (read it here) in the year-and-a-half-old case.
This week’s proposed settlement would see approximately 7,500 interns who were at Condé Nast publications like Vanity Fair, Vogue, W and the New Yorker as long ago as June 2007 get between $700 to $1,900 each. Plaintiffs’ law firm Outten & Golden will see a payout of $650,000 or 11.11% from the settlement and additional lawsuit fees of $10,000. Ballinger and Leib have applied for $10,000 each “in recognition of the services they rendered to the Class and any risks they incurred.” Of course, as with any proposal, class members can decide not take the settlement and seek further legal remedies. However, part of the reason the plaintiffs went for a settlement is because of the uncertainly of their case’s success as the Second Circuit, as a by-product of the Black Swan case, still hasn’t made a final decision on interns legal status.
And that case has a very clear connection to the Condé Nast lawsuit.
Lead attorney Rachel Bien of O&G is involved in the pivotal Black Swan case, that really started the flood of lawsuits against various media companies. A flood Outten & Golden has surfed to some extent. The case against Condé Nast was filed just days after a judge declared on June 11, 2013 that Fox Searchlight had violated labor laws by classifying the plaintiffs from the Darren Aronofsky pic as “ as unpaid interns instead of paid employees.” Outten & Golden represented the Saturday Night Live intern who filed a proposed class action complaint against NBCUniversal back in early July 2013. A settlement was reached in that case last month with NBCU paying out $6.4 million late last month. Outten & Golden will see $1.2 million of that deal. The firm is also representing the interns who went after ICM in court. With that matter soon to go before a mediator, a settlement there is likely as well.
The proposed punitive class action against Condé Nast claimed, as most of the intern cases have, that the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law. Essentially, Ballinger and Lieb alleged that they were paid way below minimum wage, did the work of full time employees and were provided no educational training. The former interned at fashion mag W in 2009 for $12 a day no matter what her hours were while the latter got around $300 for 2009 and 2010 summer internships at the New Yorker. Besides the proposed settlement, interns are a dead issue for Condé Nast now. The company ended its intern program around the time the lawsuit was filed in June 2013
“While we continue to believe the internships that were offered at Condé Nast provided experiences that were among the best in the media business, we determined that settling the lawsuit is the right business decision for Condé Nast, as it allows us to focus our time and resources on developing meaningful, new opportunities to support future up-and-coming talent,” said Condé Nast’s Chuck Townsend on November 13. The company said the CEO’s email would be its statement on the matter of the proposed settlement.
Eise Bloom of the NYC offices Proskauer Rose LLP represented the defendants while Bien was joined by Outten & Golden colleagues Michael Litrownik and Juno Turner represented the plaintiffs.