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Pay your interns now, or pay them even more later: That’s the lesson Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen may very well soon be learning.
The suit was initially filed by Shahista Lalani, a Parsons School of Design graduate from Canada who says she was a design intern for The Row in 2012 for five months. According to Lalani, who reported to The Row’s head technical designer, interns were treated poorly and were never compensated for their work—not even receiving school credit.
“You’re like an employee, except you’re not getting paid,” explains Lalani, who did not work directly with the Olsens. “They’re kind of mean to you. Other interns have cried. I’d see a lot of kids crying doing coffee runs, photocopying stuff.”
She elaborated on the types of menial tasks given to interns. “The head technical designer was like, ‘Go get my Advil. I need this and this because I’m feeling sick and I have this meeting.’ […] She was very demanding. 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.”
Lalani says that, at one point, she was actually hospitalized for dehydration due to the overwhelming physical demands the internship placed on her: “It was like 100 degrees outside. I’d just be sweating to death. I probably carried like 50 pounds worth of trench coats.”
Still, the report isn’t all negative: When it came to the Olsens, themselves, Lalani had only good things to say. “They’re really nice people,” she said. “They were never mean to anyone. They’re business people.” Well that’s good.
Joining Lalani in the suit against The Row and its parent company Dualstar are approximately 40 other past and present interns—all of whom are seeking compensation for their work, plus overtime.
If the allegations are true, The Row is hardly the first major company to be facing legal issues over unpaid intern labor. Condé Nast was forced to cough up $5.9 million in 2014 after 7,500 former interns rallied against the publishing company, while longtime PBS talk show host Charlie Rose had to pay former ‘terns around $110,000 the year prior.
Yahoo Style has reached out to The Row for comment and will update with any new information.
UPDATE, 8/11 3:50 PM:
Annett Wolf, a spokesperson for Dualstar Entertainment Group, which was founded by the Olsens in 1993 when they were just six years old, has issued the following statement to Yahoo Style.
“As an initial matter, Dualstar is an organization that is committed to treating all individuals fairly and in accordance with all applicable laws. 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.”
Particularly with the recent interest in intern-led class-action suits against employers, we’re interested to see how this all plays out.