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Mishcon de Reya has been drafted in by fashion house Alexander McQueen to defend a lost earnings claim by an intern who worked for free but believes she should have been paid minimum wage.
The intern, who goes by the pseudenym Rachel Watson, has turned to Hausfeld and Co, with associate Wessen Jazrawi instructing Cloisters barrister Catherine Casserley.
Mishcon partner Joanna Blackburn is instructed for Alexander McQueen, although counsel is unconfirmed as yet.
The intern, who worked unpaid for four months, is claiming £6,415 claim for ‘lost wages’. Watson’s 2009-10 internship included drawing artwork for embroidery, repairing embellished clothing and dyeing large quantities of fabric for free.
Her claim was filed on Friday (14 February), with her lawyers arguing that Watson was exploited as she was doing real work under a contract and should have been paid at least the minimum wage.
It is not the first time the fashion house has been publicly upbraided over work placements. Last year it was forced to publicly apologise for an advert for a “talented knitwear student” to work five days a week for up to 11 months without a wage.
Watson’s case is supported by campaign group, Intern Aware which has previously helped interns wrest settlements from Sony, the Arcadia group and X Factor.
Head of Intern Aware Gus Baker said: “It’s important that companies, and those advising them, realise that designating someone an “intern” does not exclude the duty to pay them at least the national minimum wage.
”Unpaid internships harm social mobility by ensuring that only those who can afford to work for free get opportunities in competitive industries. If employers want a talented diverse workforce and to stay on the right side of the law, they should ensure they pay their interns.”
The group has previously turned to Leigh Day who advised Sony worker Chris Jarvis in 2013 in a £4,600 settlement.
Casserley represented a gay couple in a high-profile case in 2012 when a hotel refused to let them stay in a double bed on the basis that the hotel owners were Christian.