After being sued by a former intern in 2015, Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen have moved to settle the case out of court. You may recall that plaintiff Shahista Lalani filed suit in September 2015 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 claimed 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.”
Lalani, who lists herself on LinkedIn as having held the role of "Head Intern for The Row, LLC / Dualstar Entertainment Group,” further claims she was hospitalized for dehydration because of the job’s demands. In connection therewith, she filed a proposed class action, seeking to join at least 40 other unpaid Olsen interns and has asked the court for damages, including minimum wage and overtime.
In particular, she alleged that Dualstar systematically misclassified entry level employees as minimum wage-exempt interns in violation of New York Labor Law. In lieu of providing compensation, Dualstar allegedly failed to provide Lalani and other similarly situated interns with work that furthered their skills or provided them any academic benefit, as required by both state and federal employment law in connection with unpaid internships.
After vowing to fight what they called a “meritless” case, the child stars-turned-creative directors recently agreed to settlement terms in connection with the suit. According to the most recent filing with the New York Supreme Court, the Olsens will pay $140,000 to a class of 185 interns. At this point, the settlement terms will need to be approved by the court before implemented.
This bout of unpaid internship actions got its start on the heels two major lawsuits: One filed by a former Harper’s Bazaar intern and another filed by two former Condé Nast interns. (In November 2014, Condé Nast agreed to pay $5.8 million to settle a class action lawsuit lead by Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, former W Magazine and New Yorker interns, respectively).
Diana Wang, who interned at Harper’s Bazaar, brought a class action lawsuit against the magazine’s parent company, Hearst Corporation in 2012 — marking one of the first major intern lawsuits to cast a shadow over the fashion industry. Wang called her experience at the magazine “outrageous” and “very belittling.” She claims to have worked five days a week 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with tasks that included tracking the thousands of purses, shoes, and pieces of jewellery lent to the magazine for photo shoots, managing as many as eight other interns and sending them on 30 to 40 errands a day, and answering the accessories director’s phone.
A slew of additional unpaid internship-related lawsuits followed, most of which were pioneered by the same law firms as those representing Lalani in the case at hand. Virginia & Ambinder LLP and Leeds Brown Law PC have represented interns in the cases against Lacoste, Zac Posen, Burberry, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Coach, and Donna Karan (among others, such as one against publishing giant Simon & Schuster and another against CBS.
* The case is LALANI, SHAHISTA AND OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED v. DUALSTAR ENTERTAINMENT GROUP LLC AND OTHER RELATED ENTITIES, 0158205/2015 (N.Y. Supreme).