Valentino Smith thought he was going to learn the ins and outs of the fashion and marketing world when he took an internship with Donna Karan in 2009. But unfortunately he learned the ins and outs of making coffee and straightening closets. Smith, who now has a master’s degree from Long Island University, is suing Donna Karan International on behalf of 100 other interns.
“He characterized it as a “Devil Wears Prada” atmosphere. He got so much coffee for people he knew what they wanted without having to ask” said Smith’s attorney, Lloyd Ambinder.
According to the lawsuit, Smith did menial office jobs like data entry, shipping inventory, and answering phones.
“Using a copy machines isn’t what someone would call an internship,” said Smith who had expected to get on-the-job training toward his career.
“I feel like I was taken advantage of.”
Smith feels that he should have received at least minimum wage, which is $7.25.
Once again the idea of interns being unpaid and basically being free labor to companies is something many lawsuits are citing. But lets discuss the actually fallacy involved with internships. When you think about it, it’s the student who’s actually paying to work. When you’re a college student you’re the one paying for the course credits. Which is what most internships provide. Maybe some students are lucky enough to have scholarships and full rides, but sometimes this not the case. Do you know how much a credit is nowadays at a college? Not cheap. The intern and the internship both have responsibilities: in exchange for “free” labor, the company takes on a pedagogical relationship with the intern. If they aren’t willing to teach the intern anything besides how to make coffee and get the mail, are they really teaching or just committing fraud? If the experience isn’t preparing an intern, it’s a waste of time and money.
So what’s an intern to do? Basically they’re left to do their own due diligence when it comes to choosing internships. If a student isn’t willing to work for “free”, maybe they should look into other options. We all know that paid internships are far and few. But a lot of temp agencies regularly recruit on campus before semester breaks.
In regards to Smith’s lawsuit against Donna Karan International, it’ll be interesting to see the outcome. But a rep for the company admitted no wrongdoing.
“DKI believes it has acted properly and legally,” said company rep Valerie Gelicame.