Conde Nast Intern Reforms an 'Empty Gesture'?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

First, Fox Searchlight was sued by an unpaid intern. Then came the lawsuit against Hearst Corporation. In what is probably an attempt to avoid an unpaid intern lawsuit of its own, publishing giant Condé Nast has decided to reform its internship program.

The decision sounds good in theory, but critics of the reforms say they are an "empty gesture" and do nothing to protect unpaid interns. They say the Condé Nast intern reforms aren't reforms at all.

As reported by Fashionista, the company has implemented the following rules:

  • Interns will be informed during orientation to contact Human Resources in the event of unreasonably long hours or mistreatment.
  • Interns cannot work after 7 p.m. Security badges will lock them out of the building.
  • Interns will receive a $550 stipend and must earn college credit.
  • All interns will be assigned an official mentor.
  • Interns cannot run personal errands.

The problems with these changes, explains The Atlantic, is that they don't address the real problems. Interns are still being paid an abysmal rate and work more than eight hours a day. And while they do receive college credit for their work, they often pay their universities for the privilege of putting those credits towards their degrees.

Unpaid -- and poorly paid interns -- are paying to work.

Condé Nast's intern reforms also demonstrate just how bad things are -- and perhaps just how bad of a job its legal team has done at monitoring the employment situation. Shouldn't all employees have been encouraged to contact HR in the event of mistreatment? Why wasn't this policy?

And while personal errands are par for the course in the publishing industry, having an unpaid intern run them is against the law. They receive no benefit and learn nothing from the task. Why was the practice not already barred?

What do you think of the Condé Nast intern reforms? Are they a good start or an empty gesture?

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