A former unpaid intern for Harper’s Bazaar is suing the fashion magazine's parent company, the Hearst Corporation, for unpaid wages.
The suit brought by Xuedan Wang, 28, who interned in the fashion department at Bazaar from December 2010 to December 2011, says Hearst violated federal and state wage and hour laws by not paying her even though she often worked there full time, The New York Times reported.
Wang typically worked at least 40 hours a week, and sometimes as much as 55 hours, without pay, according to Reuters, citing her lawsuit.
Wang is seeking minimum-wage pay and overtime pay in damages.
IN the meantime, Wang and her law firm are hoping to begin a class action for, by their count, hundreds of unpaid interns at Hearst, which also publishes Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and Good Housekeeping.
The lawsuit contends that interns are a "crucial labor force" at Hearst.
"Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work," the lawsuit reportedly says.
"Employers' failure to compensate interns for their work, and the prevalence of the practice nationwide, curtails opportunities for employment, fosters class divisions between those who can afford to work for no wage and those who cannot, and indirectly contributes to rising unemployment."
Reuters quotes Elizabeth Wagoner, one of Wang's lawyers, as saying in an interview that: "If the interns weren't doing the work then they would have to hire someone else to do it." This, she said, was an indicator that labor laws were being broken.
According to the Fashionista blog, citing the website Above the Law, such internships are usually considered legal as long as the intern received school credit.
"However, Wang had already graduated and was working full time doing, reportedly, fairly menial tasks like coordinating pickups and deliveries and maintaining records (and ordering around more low-level interns to do even more menial things)."
The Times cites employment experts hundreds of thousands of young people do unpaid internships each year in order to get a foot in the door of their chosen vocation.
Wang, who now lives in Brooklyn in New York City, took the internship because she wants to work in the fashion industry, having completed a degree in strategic communications at Ohio State University.
Many employers were taking advantage of interns, however, the Times cited labor advocates as saying — and violating Labor Department rules in the process by using the interns to do the jobs of other workers.