"… a brilliantly tried case … a
- Federal Judge Colleen McMahon
"Exceptionally able and experienced"
- Federal Judge Kenneth Karas
"Established record of competent and successful prosecution of large ... class actions"
- Federal Judge John Koeltl
Davenport v. Elite Model Management
February 15, 2013 (New York, New York) – Wittels Law announces that the firm and its co-counsel, the Roth Law Firm, filed a class action against Elite Model Management for failing to pay its interns.
The lawsuit alleges that Elite violates state and federal law wage laws by requiring its interns to do the work of employees – for no pay. The lawsuit highlights Elite’s job postings for Fashion Week interns on its Facebook page and emails to its interns warning them to get ready for “crunch time” and to bring their “A Games.”
The modeling giant expects its interns to do real work for no money, such as chaperoning models to bookings, updating modeling books, and for the elite among them, even keeping the drawers clean. Elite Interns are expected to work weekends if necessary, and according to the Facebook job posting, “expert knowledge of the MTA system is also a huge plus.”
“If ever a job description meets the definition of a paid employee, this is it,” says Steven L. Wittels, the lead lawyer for the class. “Over the years, Elite has boosted its bottom line on the backs of young unpaid interns, who while anxious to build their resumes, are too afraid to ask for compensation or are unaware of the wage laws’ requirements,” Wittels added.
The wage laws forbid companies like Elite from misclassifying their interns as exempt from wages when the employees in fact do real work – and aren’t merely shadowing higher-ups or are part of some educational program. “Not only is Elite hurting young people who are already struggling to make ends meet, but they’re hurting the economy as well,” adds co-lead lawyer Richard Roth. “Elite is depriving many young people entering the work force of needed entry-level jobs.”
But isn’t it worth it for the interns? “Maybe not,” says Burkett McInturff of the Wittels Law Offices, who says that the notion that performing work for no pay provides a toehold into an industry was put into serious question by a November, 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. “That study found that graduates who had paid internships were more likely to receive job offers than those who took unpaid work,” says McInturff. “Plus unpaid internships frustrate efforts to reduce unemployment, diminish tax revenues, and favor the already-fortunate who can afford to work without pay.”
The lawsuit seeks to recover unpaid wages, overtime pay, liquidated damages, interest, and attorneys’ fees for unpaid interns who worked for Elite between February 15, 2007 and the date of a final judgment. For more information, or to join this case, contact us.