Olsen Twins Apparently Treat Fashion Interns Badly -- They're in Big Trouble, Mister!

olsen twinsThe rest of the Full House alums might be busy with awesome backyard pool parties and the Fuller House reboot, but not the Olsen twins: They're dealing with a class-action lawsuit claiming Mary-Kate and Ashley's fashion company failed to pay interns. As Michelle Tanner might say, "Aw, nuts!"

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According to the lawsuit (brought against the twins by no less than 40 current and previous interns), Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, didn't pay interns or give them academic credit for working -- and for working really, really hard, at that. Indeed, to hear the lawsuit's lead plaintiff tell it, working for the Olsens is right up there with working for Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.  

"It was like 100 degrees outside," said Shahista Lalani, who claims she was hospitalized for dehydration because of her job. 

"I’d just be sweating to death. I probably carried like 50 pounds worth of trench coats.”

In court documents, Lalani details grueling 50-hour weeks at The Row (Dualstar is the parent company of the The Row and the Olsens' other design label, Elizabeth and James) with no monetary compensation or credit of any kind. No goofing off at Dualstar: Interns would work all day "inputting data into spreadsheets, making tech sheets, running personal errands for paid employees, organizing materials, photocopying, sewing, pattern cutting, among other related duties," said Lalani, with supervisors treating interns poorly and expecting them to be on call at all hours of the day and night.

"She was very demanding,” Lalani said of her former boss, The Row's head technical director. "I was doing the work of three interns. I was talking to her all day, all night. Emails at nighttime for the next day, like 10 p.m. at night."

"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.'"

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That does sound awfully unpleasant, to be sure -- especially for no money. But I have to say, it also sounds sort of like a standard fashion industry internship. The design world is a notoriously high-pressure one, with pretty much everyone getting treated badly (except for those at the very top of the pyramid). And under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, internships at for-profit companies can be unpaid as long as the internship is "for the benefit of the intern" and "similar to training which would be given in an educational environment." So these interns must have sort of known what they were getting into, right? 

That said, the unpaid intern system, particularly in the fashion/media spheres, is pretty horrible. Just because this type of thing is common and mostly accepted doesn't mean it should be, which is why this new lawsuit against Dualstar isn't the first of its kind (Hearst, Condé Nast, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records, Gawker Media, and Donna Karen International have also been sued for similar issues). And the whole thing is even more infuriating when you consider the fact that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have an estimated net worth of $300 million -- clearly they have more than enough cash to pay a few interns a living wage. Speaking of the Olsens, the twins themselves have yet to comment on this lawsuit, but a representative for Dualstar released a statement saying:

"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."

Well, that's pretty much what we'd expect them to say. But will it be dismissed? Maybe not. After all, in September 2011, two interns on the set of Black Swan sued Fox Searchlight Pictures because they weren't paid for performing administrative duties such as fetching coffee and answering phones -- and they won.

"Searchlight received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees," the judge wrote in his ruling.

So who knows? Could be that after this case, when interns come to the Olsen twins looking for money, they Olsens will be forced to fall back on one of their own catchphrases as an answer:

"You got it, dude."

 

Image via Splash News

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