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.
Though “fashion law” is an area of law that has always existed, its recent prominence within the legal field is bringing to light many issues that retailers and brands weren’t thinking about before. For example, a recent Corporate Governance Report by Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs discussed what legal issues may be affecting retailers and brands within the fashion industry in 2015.
The report highlighted 8 trends that brands should be aware of this year, ranging from the prominent unpaid internship class action lawsuits, to new regulations on employee social media policies.
One of the major trends the report discusses is the “Made in USA” litigation. Over the past year 8 brands and retailers were sued by consumers who alleged that these companies failed to adhere to California’s statute that prohibits companies from using a “Made in the USA” label unless every single element used in the creation of the piece was completely made in the USA.
The report discusses how most of these cases brought under this California statute in the past were settled. However, many of the lawsuits brought in 2014 will probably be decided this year. The defendants argue that the California statute is in conflict with the federal statute, which doesn’t require that every piece of the clothing be made in the USA to use the “Made in the USA” label, and to adhere to both statutes is burdensome and difficult.
Most of the lower courts have disagreed with this argument and have allowed the lawsuits to proceed. This shows that brands must be aware of the labeling they decide to use for the products they create, especially if they are doing business in California.
Here we go again. Eight prominent fashion brands have been sued by former interns who claim that they are owed compensation for their work. And, now, you can add Tommy Hilfiger and Fendi to that list.
Both brands are owned and operated by luxury good conglomerate, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey or LVMH and are being sued by former interns Melanie Zuccarini, Kiora Wheeler and Shawntel Smith. All three claim that the LVMH brands misclassified them as interns when the work they performed is work usually performed by employees.
Similar to the previous lawsuits, the three plaintiffs are being represented by Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC, and their lawsuit is based on New York state law, rather than the usual federal Fair Labor Standards Act, that most lawsuits of this kind are based on.
Lacoste and Zac Posen have both been hit by lawsuits by former interns claiming they were misclassified as interns and are owed compensation for their time with each brand. That brings a total of 9 fashion brands, including Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Gucci, and Donna Karen, being sued by former interns over the past couple months. And, all 9 are being represented by Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC.
Allam Qayyem is suing Lacoste and is claiming that during his time with the company in 2012, he contributed significantly to the company. Working as an accounting intern, he researched tax records, scanned and filed documents, prepared spreadsheets and worked upwards of 20-25 hours each week during his 4 month internship.
Former intern, Kevin Shahroozi, is suing Zac Posen, whom he interned for in 2013. Shahroozi claims that he worked 21 hours a week during his 5 month internship at the fashion house. His duties included sketching, cutting patterns, sewing, and researching in books and magazines. Shahroozi is claiming that he “provided an immediate advantage” to the fashion house and that Posen benefitted significantly from his work.
Marc Jacobs. Oscar de la Renta. Calvin Klein. Gucci. Kenneth Cole. What do these brands all have in common other than being powerhouses in the fashion industry? They have all been sued by former interns. And, now you can add Burberry to that list.
Former Burberry intern, Lysandra Whitlow, is suing Burberry and claiming that she, along with other interns, were misclassified at interns rather than employees in an attempt to keep labor costs low.
Whitlow is being represented by Leeds Brown Law, P.C. and Virginia & Ambinder, LLP, the two firms who are representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Kenneth Cole.
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.
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.
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.
Back in April, Condé Nast settled the unpaid intern class action lawsuit that former W Magazine intern, Lauren Ballinger and former New Yorker intern, Matthew Leib had filed against the publishing giant. However, the negotiations for the actual terms of the settlement have been ongoing.
Finally, it seems that the negotiations have concluded and Condé Nast has agreed to $5.8 million to 7,500 former interns with amounts ranging from $700 to $1,900. This class action suit is what Condé Nast to temporarily terminate their internship program last year, which was a shock heard around the world as Condé Nast internships are the most coveted in the fashion industry.
CEO Chuck Townsend was quoted as saying that this settlement “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.”
And, so the Condé Nast unpaid internship legal battle comes to an end, and the publishing giant will perhaps start a new internship program to go with their new digs at One World Trade Center!
Last week, both Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs International were sued by former interns, claiming owed compensation. Another brand has been hit with the same lawsuit. Calvin Klein and parent company, PVH Corp., have been sued by former intern, Rajwinder Kaur, who claims that Calvin Klein misclassifies their interns in an effort to avoid paying them and thus keeping labor costs low.
Kaur interned for the American brand in 2009 and explains her complaint that her responsibilities included data entry, fashion show production, research and maintenance of samples. She goes on to state that she worked about 30 hours a week and did not receive compensation for her time at the brand. She also claims that she did not receive any education or training while at Calvin Klein. She is asking that the court certify a class action suit so other former interns may join the lawsuit.
Do the facts of this lawsuit sound familiar? Because they are the exact facts of the complaints filed against Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs last week. Literally. All three lawsuits claim that the respective intern conducted tasks that would be classified as employee-level rather than intern-level. All three lawsuits claim that the brand in question misclassifies interns to avoid paying them. All three lawsuits claim that each brand is violating New York state law rather than the more common federal Fair Labor Standards Act. All three lawsuits ask the court for a class action certification. And, the reason for these common facts among all three lawsuits is because all three plaintiffs are being represented by Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC.
Two fashion houses, Marc Jacobs International and Oscar de la Renta, have become the latest in the fashion industry to be hit with unpaid internship lawsuits.
Marc Jacobs International, which houses the brands Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs, has been sued by former intern, Linney Warren, for failing to pay interns. Warren was a production intern for Marc Jacobs from April to June 2009.
In her complaint, she claims that Marc Jacobs’ internship program violates New York state law and misclassifies entry level employees as interns in an effort to avoid paying employees and minimizing costs. Warren claims that during her internship she worked 70-hour weeks and performed tasks such as transporting raw materials, organizing fabrics, sewing and running errands for her supervisors.
Oscar de la Renta was also sued this week by former intern, Monica Ramirez, who interned for the brand between January and April 2009, for failure to pay interns.
In her complaint, Ramirez claims that the fashion house also improperly classifies entry level employees at interns and therefore avoids paying these employees. Ramirez claims that the work she performed is classified as entry level rather than intern work. These tasks included making jewelry, delivery fabric and accessories and dressing models.
As mentioned above, Ramirez is claiming that Oscar de la Renta is violating New York state law rather than the more common Fair Labor Standards Act that many unpaid internship lawsuits are predicated on. Both lawsuits claim that each company is violating the standards set out by the New York state law for determining whether an individual is classified as an intern or an employee.