Friday, April 2, 2010

Unpaid internships may be illegal

With an increasing number of newsrooms using unpaid interns, this article might interest local media managers: The New York Times reports that officials in California and other states have stepped up enforcement of minimum wage laws.

    The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.

    “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division. ...

    Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming — fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their resumes.

    Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year, more than triple the 174 posted two years ago. ...

    In California, officials have issued guidance letters advising employers whether they are breaking the law, while Oregon regulators have unearthed numerous abuses. ...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is bad news for Bruce Brugmann and the Bay Guardian, which relies heavily on unpaid intern labor.

Anonymous said...

KTVU and KRON have unpaid internships as well. I can't speak for the other stations. I wouldn't be surprised if some station started charging interns for the privilege of getting experience at their station.

hkremer said...

If the internship states that the intern *must* receive college credit in lieu of pay, it is not illegal. Most television and radio stations have this requirement. Check out KRON and KTVU's respective site and you'll see what I'm talking about

Anonymous said...

Re: "If the internship states that the intern *must* receive college credit in lieu of pay, it is not illegal."

Wrong - That's not enough. Read the posted caveat at the Dept. of Labor. The employer cannot financially gain from the intern's work, even if it is "for credit."


I've been raising a ruckus about this, and all the DOL's spokesperson would say to me (today, on the phone) is: 1) they have an internal policy of focusing on low wage workers (meaning, minimum wage trades, such as hotel cleaners) and 2) they will only (maybe) act when specific interns report their own bosses.

Newsflash: Interns don't report bosses for fear of blacklisting. Everyone already knows this.

And we wonder why companies have done away with entry level work, swapping in FREE "interns" instead? Illegally?

The free interns and the Dept. of Labor have trained them to expect illegal, free employees.

Trust me, this is about to change - for the better. That's what's so great about the internet - leverage for the masses.