A former unpaid intern for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar has filed a federal wage and hour lawsuit against the magazine’s corporate parent the Hearst Corporation. The former unpaid intern claims she often worked full-time for the magazine even though she was not paid thereby violating federal wage and hour laws. The intern and her attorneys are also hoping to gain class action status.

According to the lawsuit, the unpaid intern started at Harper’s Bazaar in August 2011 after graduating from college. She worked at the magazine until December 2011 and according to the lawsuit the unpaid intern usually worked 40 hours per week and sometimes up to 55 hours.

At the magazine, the unpaid intern’s duties were to coordinate pickups and deliveries of fashion samples sent between Harper’s Bazaar and various fashion vendors and showrooms. She also managed other unpaid interns by assigning them to help execute pickups and deliveries. In addition, she also helped maintain records and process corporate reimbursements.

The former intern and her attorneys are asking for the suit to be granted class action status because they claim hundreds of unpaid interns work for magazines owned by the parent company.

Normally, college students and recent college grads complete internships to gain real world experience and a chance to gain paid employment afterwards. In addition, interns are supposed to gain an educational experience from the internship. According to some labor advocates many employers are exploiting the role of interns and assign them to complete duties performed by other paid workers.

One of the lawyers for the former intern said, “Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them.”

Source: The New York Times, “Former intern sues Hearst over unpaid work and hopes to create a class action,” Steven Greenhouse, Feb. 1, 2012