The Hearst Corporation found itself slapped with a lawsuit from a former unpaid intern at Harper’s Bazaar earlier this month. Ohio State University grad Xuedan “Diana” Wang interned at the famous fashion magazine from August 2010 to December 2010 for 40 to 55 hours a week. Now Wang is suing for minimum wage compensation, alleging that Harper’s violated fair labor laws.
According to the New York Times, Wang’s lawsuit argues that Harper’s Bazaar’s failure “to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment.” Wang is seeking minimum wage reimbursement for the hours she spent doing menial tasks such as coordinating sample pickups and deliveries, and maintaining records.
As current and former law students, everyone at CaseClothesed.com can attest to the prevalence of unpaid internships in the fashion industry. However, the Department of Labor sets forth very specific guidelines governing such internships, emphasizing the educational aspects of such positions for the benefit of the intern, not the employer. In fact, the DOL guidelines even allow that “the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded” as a factor informing the legitimacy of an unpaid internship.
Wang’s suit is still pending, but it’s probably safe to say that a reference is out of the question.