Elite Models Agency Sued for Internship Exploitation

The Elite Model Agency, an agency that has practically coined the word “supermodel” by developing and representing multi-million-dollar faces and careers in the likes of Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen. Since 1977, Elite has represented some of the most beautiful women and have earned a reputation for excellence, but one 22-year-old former intern name Dajia Davenport, has thrown a chink in Elite’s chain by filing a $50 million class action lawsuit against the agency for improper compensation and violation of wage law. Davenport, represented by the Steve Wittels of Law Offices of Steven L. Wittels and Richard Roth of the Roth Law Firm – alleging that by not paying their interns, Elite violated New York State Labor Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The act of procuring interns in New York State and other places is so widespread, that most people are not even aware that what they’re doing is illegal. In fact says Roth, “the federal government provides laws to protect interns who are doing substantive work.” The US Department of Labor stipulates that an intern cannot displace a regular employee, and the employer “derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” “The interns who worked for Elite were doing real work,” says Wittels. “They were leading models around, doing bookings, making sure they were there on time. They were told in emails ‘this is crunch-time. We expect you to bring your A-game.’ When you have real people doing work like that, they need to be paid.” Davenport worked as a New Faces Development Intern at Elite between July to September 2010. Her duties consisted of “assisting with production management and development including data entry, scheduling and image maintenance; and providing administrative support for Marketing/Booking/Scouting Departments.” Unpaid internships undercut the job market for entry-level positions, depress wages, undercuts minimum wage, kill jobs, and further divide class advantage, which in effect maximizes the effect of the nation job crisis.