And so the class actions by former fashion interns continues. This time the lawsuit has been brought against The Row, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen‘s high end fashion line. The interns are claiming that they were entitled to pay and were misclassified as interns because their responsibilities were those normally associated with employees and were subjected to excessive amounts of work and unfairly long hours.
The class action consists of about 40 former interns and the principal plaintiff, Shahista Lalani. Lalani is a former design intern who worked for The Row for 5 months in 2012.
Her claims include 50-hour workweeks, a hospitalization for dehydration, and responsibility of menial or degrading tasks including late-night emails, and sorting buttons as well as running personal errands for her bosses.
Lalani spoke to the New York Daily News about her experience, claiming that she was hospitalized because it was “100 degrees outside” and she was “probably [carrying] 50 pounds worth of trench coats.”
Lalani claims that her boss was “very demanding” and that she was “doing the work of three interns.”
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, internships can be unpaid if the internship is educational and for the benefit of the intern. That means that the company can’t derive any real benefit from the intern being there.
Dualstar Entertainment Group, the twins’ production company that houses The Row and their other clothing lines and companies, released a statement today regarding the lawsuit. Dualstar claims that the “allegations in the complaint filed against Dualstar are groundless, and Dualstar will vigorously defend itself against plaintiff’s claims in claims in court.”
Internship lawsuits like this are very common in the fashion industry right now. Conde Nast recently settled a lawsuit with former interns and temporarily discontinued its internship program. Many other high fashion brands, including Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, have been sued this year for the same claims.
It will be interesting to see how The Row lawsuit shakes out. Stay tuned…