Fighting back against unpaid internships

Erica van Rabenswaay is suing Norma Kamali saying the company violated federal labor laws for her internship. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Erica van Rabenswaay is suing Norma Kamali, saying the company violated federal labor laws for her internship.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

After 10-hour days photographing for look books and adding to a website for a fashion designer, Erica van Rabenswaay, 24, started wondering whether she should be paid for her internship.

Van Rabenswaay sued designer Norma Kamali last week, saying the company violated federal labor laws by requiring her to work full-time without any pay for three months this year.

She said she spent sometimes as many as 10 hours a day creating look books, adding photography to the website and creating signs for the store. All this time, her only compensation was a monthly Metrocard, she told Metro.

She took the internship understanding it was unpaid, she said, with the expectation that hard work would lead to paid work.

But instead of employment, mentorship or training, she alleged in the lawsuit, which demands double back wages and attorney’s fees and costs, van Rabenswaay said that what was called an “apprenticeship” was instead just helping Kamali, for free.

“Everything was very sketchy,” the Bronx resident said.

Her court filing is only the beginning — Intern Justice, a group that helps interns sue employers, warns it is the first of their Fair Wage Summer project, which will soon include similar lawsuits.

“Unpaid internships are exploitative, unethical and illegal,” said Maurice Pianko, the founder of Intern Justice.

“Young people think they are getting a toehold in their chosen profession,” he said, but, “many employers are just looking for free labor.”

Ultimately, the designer did hire Van Rabenswaay — for a month, she said, when she was abruptly fired. She soon spotted an advertisement seeking another “apprentice” for the work she had been doing, she said, again offering no pay.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…