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The Beginning of the End of Unpaid Internships?

June 12th, 2013 by admin in Careers, corporate culture, internships


The ruling of a solemn federal district judge may herald the end of what some consider the objectionable practice of unpaid internships.

The decision by Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that Fox Searchlight, the movie studio responsible for Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Descendants had erred in its decision not to pay two interns on the set of the movie “Black Swan.” They were essentially regular employees.

The idea of unpaid internships in-for profit companies has gained favor since the onset of the Great Recession. An uneven economy, an ever expanding pool of college age workers and an apparent willingness by college administrators to look the other way while collecting sizable tuition payments, combined to create an environment where free labor masqueraded as a learning experience.

Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman who were production interns on the set of “Black Swan” took lunch orders, answered phones, made travel plans and even emptied the garbage.

To this point employers have argued that as long as interns received college credit, they did not necessarily need to pay interns and often ignored the Department of Labor criteria for them. According to Steven Greenhouse’s                 coverage in  The New York Times , “Those rules say unpaid internships should not be to the immediate advantage of the employer, the work must be similar to vocational training given in an educational environment, the experience must be for the benefit of the intern and the intern’s work must not displace that of regular employees.”

Judge Pauley’s ruling did not address the practice of paid internships—barely minimum wage temporary jobs that have also gained favor in creative industries.

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