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.
The three plaintiffs are asking for monetary damages, which includes unpaid wages, and they are also seeking a class action certification so other former interns can join in the lawsuit.
This brings the number of fashion brands that have been sued by former interns represented by these two law firms to ten. And, it doesn’t seem that they are slowing down.
Fashion internships have been a source of conversation over the past couple of years within the industry. It’s a known fact that most, if not all, fashion and retail companies have interns who really help the companies function, but in return the interns get pretty valuable experience and more importantly connections, that can lead to full time positions.
Condé Nast recently terminated their internship program which is probably a result of the class action lawsuit and eventual settlement. Personally, I was saddened to hear about Condé Nast’s decision to end their internship programs, because my very first internship was as a fashion intern at the Los Angeles office of Women’s Wear Daily, when WWD was still a part of the Condé Nast family. My internship there was probably one of the best experiences that I had because I really learned a lot about the industry and it lead to other internships and experiences in the industry.
I do understand the desire to get compensated for your time at these internships because fashion internships are definitely rigorous and tough (having had both fashion and law internships, I would have to say fashion internships are much tougher). But, the question then becomes is the experience and connections you get that lays the foundation of your career enough compensation? Or do interns need to be compensated monetarily as well?
It will be interesting to see how these lawsuits play out and if and how they will affect internships within the fashion industry. Stay tuned…