After being named in a lawsuit filed by a former intern, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are fighting back. You may recall that plaintiff Shahista Lalani filed suit last month in New York Supreme Court, claiming she worked 50-hour weeks in connection with the twins’ high end collection, The Row, without pay or college credit. The Parsons graduate claims that she worked for the 29-year old twins for four months in 2012, and says she and her fellow interns performed the same work as "some full-time employees." Such tasks consisted of photocopying, sewing, cleaning, and running personal errands, including carrying “like 50 pounds worth of trench coats” in 100-degree weather and “sweating to death.”
As of this week, the Olsens have filed their answer in response to Lalani’s complaint, denying each of the allegations and claims asserted by Lalani (think: violations of New York Labor Law, etc.). In fact, according to the famous sisters' answer, they allege that no laws were violated and that they did not act in a "reckless or malicious manner," as Lalani cited in her complaint.
The interesting part of the twins’ response document comes in the form of the defenses their legal team asserts on their behalf. They set out seventeen of them, including that Lalani is an inadequate class representative, that there is not a common question of law or fact amongst the proposed class of interns, and that a class action is not the appropriate manner of proceeding, among others.
The most interesting defense, however, is the one citing the doctrine of unclean hands. This is an affirmative defense that claims the other party (Lalani in this case) acted wrongfully or unethically in relation to the subject of the lawsuit. One may act with “unclean hands” if she acts fraudulently or dishonestly about the nature or contents of the contract, for instance, or if she files a meritless lawsuit in the first place. Unfortunately, the Olsens’ response does not elaborate on why they are citing this defense.
Stay tuned …