Former Intern Sues Donna Karan for Unpaid Internship

It seems that unpaid internships are once again up for debate (fittingly on Labor Day!) as an unpaid intern has launched a class action suit against Donna Karan. Vallentino Smith, a 25-year-old man from Queens, New York City, is suing Donna Karan International over his unpaid internship which took place in 2009.

He claims that he worked 16 hours a week without pay when he interned at the fashion giant’s Manhattan headquarters four years ago. While this doesn’t seem surprising for many of us who have been interns – and who have probably worked more than 16 hours a week without pay – it may surprise you to learn that an unpaid internship must fulfill certain criteria so that they are not unlawful.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, an internship must be “for the benefit of the intern” and be “similar to training which would be given in an educational environment”. Smith claims that this internship was not for his benefit, but that he spent his time organizing fashion closets and on coffee runs.

He is seeking retroactive pay for his internship and would like his case to be seen as class action so that at least 100 other Donna Karen interns can also claim retroactive pay.

“DKI believes it has acted properly and legally,” said company rep Valerie Gelicame, according to the New York Post.

What do you think of unpaid internships? Weigh in below!