Fashion in the Headlines / News

When Interns Strike Back

Internships are tricky. Especially in creative fields like Fashion. Many people who are looking to break into the field, must intern to even be considered for an entry-level position at a major fashion firm be magazine or design house. Having experienced a handful of internships myself, I know first hand how some internships may seem a little bit more rewarding than others. The things you are asked to do, the amount of hours you put in and the sacrifices you make, all to say you have worked with a certain person or for a certain company for NO PAY. Yet, many people would “Kill for that internship” (figuratively speaking, of course) to a top fashion magazine or esteemed fashion firm. However, it is far to say that some companies have taken advantage of these eager working bee’s.

One former interns has had it. A lawsuit was filed on Wednesday to the Hearst Corporation accusing Harper’s Bazaar (owned by Hearst) of violating state and federal wage laws by withholding pay while one interned work there. According to the unpaid intern, Xuedan Wang, she had been working for the magazine full-time, 40-55 hours per week, from August 2011 to December 2011 doing the work of a paid employee with a title of “intern” and no pay.Wang who had a degree in strategic communications, assigned other unpaid interns to help carry out intern duties such as coordinate pickups and deliveries between fashion vendors and showrooms, as well as maintain records and process reimbursement request.
The law firm filing the suit is are asking to make the case a class action on behalf of the hundreds of unpaid interns that Heart Magazines “employ”. The lawsuit referred to the internship guidelines that states unpaid interns are only lawful when, “the internship experience is for the benefit of the intern”, and in a context of an educational training program.
Through personal experience and stories from follow fashion friends, there are many employers that are taking advantage of these interns who essentially use interns to the menial entry-level tasks that companies do not want to pay someone to do. The lawsuit boldy claims that many internships cause much more harm than good. Not only to the intern, but to the nation as a whole. Internships “foster class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to the rising unemployment.” Not everyone can afford to work full-time for free. While Hearst like many other companies arrange for interns to receive academic credit through their college or university, Wang, like many other interns, were already college graduates when they began their internships.

Having had many internships, there were some that I learned so much and really appreciate the time I had working there. While there were others, in retrospect, that really should not have been legal. Speaking personally, I stuck through those not so legal internships for the promise of a full paid job and the “experience” of working in an acclaimed industry. For a prospective intern to go into an internship with simple LEGAL guidelines is tricky because it is likely that the next prospective intern to be interviewed wont know, or wont care. All to have the opportunity to say they’ve worked with such an esteemed company.

Fashion Focused wants to know what YOU think. Do you have any Horrible internship stories? What are your thoughts on this lawsuit?
Discuss Below!

Author: Lidia Alvarez

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