Ex-interns who worked at Giorgio Armani filed a class-action lawsuit in New York last week against their former employer.  The suit alleges that over 100 interns were misclassified as unpaid interns when they should have been paid minimum wage.  Lead plaintiff, Stephanie Figuccio, claims to have worked 16 to 20 hours per week ironing and folding clothing, setting up the floor and arranging lighting at Armani’s corporate headquarters in New York City, but was not paid at all.

Similarly, last year, Valentino Smith, an intern who worked at Donna Karan, sued the company on behalf of at least 100 other interns who claimed that they should have been paid minimum wage.  That case is still pending.

Companies in the fashion, entertainment and publishing industries are known for offering unpaid internships to college students and college graduates on the premise that the internship program will provide a valuable educational experience for students.  In some situations, however, the work experience of unpaid interns does not include vocational or academic training as promised, and instead, companies take advantage of the situation by illegally using internships as a guise for free labor like at Giorgio Armani.

  As this Firm previously posted, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, an internship must meet certain criteria to be unpaid.  For example, the internship must be for the benefit of the intern and be similar to the training given in an educational environment and the intern cannot be hired to do the work of a regular employee.  For more information about these factors, click here.