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Businesses The Courts

Federal Judge Says Interns Should Be Paid 540

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the businesses-hate-it-so-it-must-be-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Student interns are typically relegated to menial tasks like fetching coffee and taking out the trash, the idea being that they get paid in experience instead of money. On Tuesday, Manhattan Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley disagreed, ruling in favor of two interns who sued Fox Searchlight Pictures to be paid for their work on the 2010 film Black Swan. The interns did chores that otherwise would have been performed by paid employees. Pauley ruled, in accordance with criteria laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor, that unpaid internships should be educational in nature and specifically structured to the benefit of the intern, and reasoned that if interns are going to do grunt work like regular employees, then they should be paid like regular employees." The article seems to imply that this might be the beginning of the end for the rampant abuse of unpaid internships: "Judge Pauley rejected the argument made by many companies to adopt a 'primary benefit test' to determine whether an intern should be paid, specifically whether 'the internship’s benefits to the intern outweigh the benefits to the engaging entity.' Judge Pauley wrote that such a test would be too subjective and unpredictable."
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Federal Judge Says Interns Should Be Paid

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  • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:37PM (#43986065)

    Unpaid internships have always been very restricted according to labor laws. It has always been the case that many companies in the entertainment and publishing and fashion industries were breaking the law. What is new is simply that a few former interns got fed up enough with their treatment that they are ratting out their unethical non-employers ;-)

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:41PM (#43986127)

    There are jobs that people really, really, really want to do for zero pay. Why wouldn't you allow them to make that decision for themselves?

    Why don't we allow people to sell themselves into slavery? Because as a society we long ago decided that slavery was immoral. Why don't we allow people to contract themselves into a period of indentured servitude? Because as a society we long ago decided that indentured servitude was immoral. Why don't we allow people to work for profit-making corporations without being paid for their labor? Because as a society we long ago decided...

    Note that unpaid internships are legal in 2 broad circumstances: first, of course, working for a non-profit entity, second where the intern is being trained and not performing immediately useful work for the company.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:52PM (#43986313)

    In most societies it would have been illegal to have them working without pay. What to expect does not make that legal. The judge is correct.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:53PM (#43986329)

    If you read the article you would have found out that the "interns" were actually unpaid workers. From the article: "The judge noted that these internships did not foster an educational environment and that the studio received the benefits of the work." The judge correctly ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures did not followed the criteria laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor. (You didn't even have to read the article - it's in the summary too). The criteria linked above is a good read btw.

    It's about damn time the government went after the abuse. It doesn't affect our interns since (1) they are paid a stipend and (2) it is actually educational and benefits them way more than us. We use interns to foster growth in research. The movie industry use interns for free labor.

  • Re:bye bye interns (Score:4, Informative)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:55PM (#43986369) Homepage

    The minimum wage laws and the socialist State agenda already made it impossible for people to take very low paid position only to be apprentices, so apprenticeship is dead in America because of the minimum wage.

    Funny how high minimum wages and "socialism" to a degree much greater than in the US hasn't eradicated Germany's very popular system of apprenticeship.

    And first-world countries that do not have minimum wage set by law tend to have minimum wage worked out in collective bargaining between a union and management (which then applies to all employees, union or non-union). Do you think that that would lower wages?

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:4, Informative)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:03PM (#43986531)

    Apprentices normally get paid. Go ask a local electrician. No one is saying pay these folks top dollar, just minimum wage or more.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:20PM (#43986795) Homepage
    Yes. It's called tax evasion. If a for-profit business gets something of value (like unpaid work), it has to pay taxes on it.
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:23PM (#43986851)

    "There are plenty of paid internships out there already"

    That's a pretty broad statement that ignores a number of facts, such as:
    1) Not every field has paid internships
    2) Not every field has internships readily available
    3) Not every location has companies nearby willing to take on interns (think small cities and rural areas)
    4) Not every paid internship is flexible enough to be viable
    5) Not every internship meets the educational requirements some schools have for it to count

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:25PM (#43986873)

    But what if their work is not realistically worth even the minimum wage to the employer? What if they can get a more experienced person for the minimum wage instead of a dumb kid who never did any work in their life?

    From the summary: "The interns did chores that otherwise would have been performed by paid employees.". So clearly, it was jobs that needed doing. And if they 'cant get a more experienced person for the minimum wage' then the job cleary doesnt offer ENOUGH PAY. If you want experienced people, be prepared to pay them as experienced people.

    If it is work that you would otherwise have to pay someone to do, then the intern deserves to be paid as well. Again, from the summary "unpaid internships should be educational in nature and specifically structured to the benefit of the intern" so sure, you can have unpaid internships, but then the intern should get something out of it as well.

    Also: Captcha "exploit", heh :)

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:33PM (#43987027)

    Note I stated "Slashdot Libertarian".

    I have plenty of experience with those nuts.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:4, Informative)

    by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:35PM (#43987063)

    Actually, I went back and re-read sribe's post. I short-changed it a bit with a knee-jerk reaction. I thought he was simply equating internships with slavery. I didn't read it very well. Sorry sribe, I mischaracterized what you were saying.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:50PM (#43987301)

    http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/volunteers.asp [dol.gov]

    If this is the sort of basic facts you do not know, you really should not be discussing this in public.

  • RTFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:12PM (#43987651) Homepage Journal

    From TFS:

    Pauley ruled, in accordance with criteria laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor, that unpaid internships should be educational in nature and specifically structured to the benefit of the intern, and reasoned that if interns are going to do grunt work like regular employees, then they should be paid like regular employees."

    All this judge did was rule in accordance to existing law - that interns are there to be taught the tricks of the trade, not be your goddamn coffee mule, and if you're going to utilize them as such, they must be paid for their efforts (and rightfully so).

    For fuck's sake, guys, learn to read at least the damn summary before you go off on a nonsensical tangent; perhaps you'll learn to think better of it.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @04:04PM (#43988923)

    But it is the judge's job to determine if working someone without pay is legal or not.

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