Kenneth Cole and Gucci Both Hit With Unpaid Intern Lawsuits

First, it was Marc Jacobs and Oscar De La Renta. Then it was Calvin Klein. Now, Kenneth Cole and Gucci are the latest fashion brands sued by a former intern.

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Just like the other lawsuits, the plaintiffs in both cases are claiming that the brands are misclassifying entry-level employees as interns in order to avoid rising labor costs, in violation New York state law. And, just like the other lawsuits, the plaintiffs are being represented by Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC. 

Former Gucci intern, Lindsey Huggins, interned at Gucci’s 5th Avenue flagship in 2008. In her lawsuit, she claims that she worked 40 hours a week and performed tasks including answering phones, assisting customers, maintaining excel sheets on store sales and assisting her manager.

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Former Kenneth Cole intern, Oluseyl Shay Awogbile, intern for the American brand in 2008 as well, where he worked 20 to 30 hours a week performing tasks such as assisting in design and sketching, maintaining the sample inventory, and organizing production aspects, as well as running errands and performing administrative tasks.

Both are claiming that the tasks they performed at their respective interns more commonly attributed to employees rather than interns, and both are asking the court to classify the lawsuit as a class action so that other interns can join.

And, just like the others, these lawsuits claim that both Kenneth Cole and Gucci are violating New York state law, which states eleven factors that are needed in order for an employee to be classified as an intern and to justify not compensating them for their work.

These are the 4th and 5th fashion houses to be sued by plaintiffs making these claims and who are represented by Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC. These two firms seem to have a habit of going after companies and claiming their internship practices violate New York state law.

In 2008, these firms represented former David Letterman intern, Mallory Musallam, who claimed that her internship violated New York state law. She later filed to dismiss the lawsuit and claimed that the firms contacted her when they saw her internship on her LinkedIn page and made her believe that her internship amounted to “indentured servitude.” She went on to apologize to the show, and the firms deny any allegations of wrongdoing.

Having already gone after 5 top fashion brands, I don’t think these firms are done. It seems that any fashion brand that employed interns over the past 6-8 years may be next. Now, whether these firms are truly looking out for the rights of fashion interns or is capitalizing on the recent hot topic of fashion internships remains to be seen. Stay tuned for more developments…

Beeta J.

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