Internships: The Beginning of the End of Interns Without Wages
In August 2011, when Diana Wang began her seventh unpaid internship, this time at Harper’s Bazaar, the legendary high-end fashion magazine, she figured that her previous six internships - at a modeling agency, a PR firm, a jewelry designer, a magazine, an art gallery and a state governor’s office - had prepared her for the demands of New York’s fashion world.
“I was so determined to make this one really worth my while,” says the 28-year-old Wang, who moved from Columbus, Ohio, to New York, where she was living with her boyfriend (also working as an unpaid intern at one point) and living off of her savings. “I knew I couldn’t do anymore internships after this.”
As it turned out, Wang’s internship was just like many of the thousands of others: unrewarding in terms of both pay and marketable experience — not to mention the lack of a job offer. In fact, the only difference between her internship and most others was what happened about a month after it ended. Wang sued.
On Feb. 1, the law firm Outten & Golden filed a class-action lawsuit against the Hearst Corporation, which owns Harper’s Bazaar, on behalf of Wang and any other unpaid and underpaid intern who worked at the company over the past six years. The lawsuit alleges that, among other things, Hearst violated federal and state labor laws by having Wang work as many as 55 hours a week without compensation.