Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen find themselves in the middle of a legal mess now that a class action lawsuit has been brought against them alleging that they failed to pay at least 40 interns, one in particular saying she was on call day and night when she interned at The Row.
Shahista Lalani claims that as a former design intern, she worked 50 hour weeks for the company “inputting data into spreadsheets, making tech sheets, running personal errands for paid employees, organizing materials, photocopying, sewing, pattern cutting, among other related duties.” Lalani says that she and the other interns were working not only without pay but without getting any kind of academic credit. “You’re like an employee, except you’re not getting paid,” she describes the work environment.
Though Lalani has only nice things to say about the Olsens themselves, she believes the head of technical design exploited her labor. “I was doing the work of three interns. I was talking to her all day, all night. E-mails at nighttime for the next day, like 10 p.m. at night.”
It’s a story not unfamiliar to people in the fashion industry, and though internships are an important way to get your foot in the door for a career, if you’re going to have interns working full-time hours, they need to be compensated appropriately. We’ll be watching closely as this case unfolds.
UPDATE: A representative for the Olsen twins’ company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, has released a statement maintaining their innocence and saying the plaintiffs don’t have legs to stand on. “The allegations in the complaint filed against Dualstar are groundless, and Dualstar will vigorously defend itself against plaintiff’s claims in court, not before the media. Dualstar is confident that once the true facts of this case are revealed, the lawsuit will be dismissed in its entirety.”