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Fashion Law Blog An Interactive Discussion on the Business of Fashion

Fashion Law 101: Internships

Posted in The Business of Fashion

Summer is in full swing.  Fashion Brands are working hard on getting their back-to-school goods out, and at the same time are busy getting ready for the next round of tradeshows. 

Times like this cause companies to crave extra help, and with the state of economy, have many people begging to intern or work for just the experience.  You probably know a company or two that has interns or might have been an intern yourself when you were starting off.  We all know that interns are commonly used in the fashion industry, especially in New York around Fashion Week.  And we all saw "The Devil Wears Prada," right?

But, before you dive into that pool, beware!    California has very strict rules governing interns and there has been a flurry of lawsuit in New York by interns seeking unpaid wages.

As my colleague Nancy Yaffe states on Fox’s California Employment Law Blog:

While counter-intuitive, interns aren’t supposed to really be helpful to your business; rather they are supposed to learn from you.  As the Department of Labor puts it, an employer is not supposed to derive any immediate advantage from the intern, and they can’t displace your regular employees. Also, while California’s DLSE still suggests that an intern be part of some accredited school program, that one fact alone is certainly not sufficient to qualify someone for intern status.

So what do you do?  If the true purpose of your prospective intern is not that of an apprentice who will learn and be mentored by you, but someone to do all those dreg tasks, the best course of action is to pay your interns at least minimum wage. 

Remember, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should!  (After all, who can forget that Ugg boots were actually in style!)