We continue to see a growing trend by interns who sue corporations for violation of labor and employment laws. There are two cases we have seen similar labor/employment law allegations like the one here: 1) The against Hearst Corporation; and 2) the case against Fox Entertainment.
In this case, the allegations are as follows:
1. The Plaintiff Dajia Davenport worked for the Defendant Elite in the summer of 2010.
2. Elite instead of treating interns as interns, “deliberately misclassifies its interns as exempt from wage requirements,” but makes them work as full-time employees i.e. more than 40hours a week, weekends included.
A couple of things to note here:
1. This is a class action. It means Davenport is not the only one suing. There are a large group of people suing Elite. It is why the amount of damages $50million is that large. Davenport’s name is just the lead name on the pleadings (legal documents filed with the court) for ease of identification of the case etc. We can’t list all plaintiffs on the face of the pleading. There would be no room.
2. There are law firms who specialize exclusively in bringing class action suits and have the infrastructure to handle such class actions. Class actions tend to be in the realm of complex litigation both by virtue of their size and managing the Plaintiffs involved in a class action. Think of the Erin Brockovich movie which you can watch on You Tube for $2.99, if you have never seen the movie to get a sense of what class actions look like, from a lay perspective.
3. Class actions are taken on a contingency fee basis. There are many forms of paying an attorney when you seek legal representation. The attorney may accept the following kinds of fee: hourly, flat fee or a contingency fee. A contingency fee means the attorney does not collect payment unless you win your case. The percentage of how much they collect can range from 33 to 40%. Personal injury and employment law cases are good examples of where you see contingency fee type structures.
4. As fashion business owners, there are basic labor and employment laws you should pay attention. To know what they are, you should consult with a Labor & Employment Lawyer. Don’t be afraid to hire interns but don’t turn your interns into slaves.
The Africa Fashion Law™ Angle
Elite Model Management has a relationship with modeling agencies in Africa. In Nigeria, for example, Elite has a long-standing relationship with one of the more prominent agencies Beth Model Management. Nigeria has labor and employment laws that have parallel provisions with US law. It is important African model agencies that do business with US modeling agencies tune into the legal issues that may arise from such relationships.
A good discussion about the issues with interns is the write up from my trial lawyer colleague Ms. Tracy Agyemang who works for the US Department of Labor. I shared her article yesterday on Ladybrille. Please visit it here.
We will keep a close tab on this case.