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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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  • Genius judge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:27AM (#43985931)

    If you have to pay interns like regular employees, what's the point of hiring interns?

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

    by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:28AM (#43985943) Homepage Journal

    It's not the judge's job to defend the internship concept.

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

    by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:30AM (#43985965)

    If you have to pay interns like regular employees, what's the point of hiring interns?

    Because some of them are good enough that you will want to employ them later but you can't really tell which ones from a conventional interview.

    Personally I think no-one should be employed for zero pay, interns are not slaves.

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

    by 54mc (897170) <samuelmcraven&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:30AM (#43985969)

    The only point I can see is that even if they have to be paid, you still have perfectly legitimate reason to pay them less than you would someone else doing the same work.

    The real problem is the racket they've got going. You can't get a job without experience and the only experience you can get is going to be unpaid or underpaid labor doing the exact same job

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

    by saihung (19097) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:31AM (#43985975)

    The "point" of hiring interns is to provide them with an educational experience. That's why you don't have to pay them - because they show up primarily for their own benefit and provide few, if any, benefits to the host organization. People who show and do valuable work for you are called "employees," and the thing about employees is that they have a legal right to be paid. Once upon a time, businesses understood this and hired seasonal workers (students on summer vacation) for a small salary. Nowadays every imbecile thinks that an "intern" is a source of free labor. Wrong.

    If you want free labor and you're a for-profit business? Screw you. We have minimum wage laws for a reason. You are not allowed to make a profit off of someone's labor and not pay them. "Internship" is not a code word for "someone I can't be bothered to pay."

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:31AM (#43985979)

    If interns have to get paid, there goes Hollywood, Print, and Radio media industries... Interns pretty much do everything these days.

    How about laying off some lazy fat management types to free up some money?

  • by glassware (195317) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:33AM (#43986019) Homepage Journal

    An internship should clearly be:

    - For a well-defined project;
    - For a limited time;
    - Paid (at a basic level);
    - As much work for the employer as it is for the intern.

    If you're not mentoring your interns heavily, you stand no chance of developing a talent pipeline. I wrote about my experiences with an internship program here: http://www.altdevblogaday.com/2012/04/18/lessons-learned-from-training-interns/ [altdevblogaday.com]

    The critical aspect is that you have to have the available bandwidth to mentor and supervise an intern. You have to give them clear goals and a clear chance to succeed.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dywolf (2673597) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:36AM (#43986063)

    That's called volunteering and is not a "job".

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

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:38AM (#43986083) Homepage Journal
    Well, say goodbye to internships...

    While rulings like this are well meaning, they will hurt more than help in many cases.

    Much like minimum wage, making it higher...a living wage, hurts low end job markets. It isn't MEANT to be a living wage for supporting a family. These jobs are for kids, living at home still or maybe in college...

    We need these jobs that teach kids skills, and/or allow them to start to earn money, and find out what it entails for working a job, dependability and responsibility, and how to manage money.

    Kids still often get school credits for these internships, no?

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

    by pellik (193063) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:41AM (#43986129)
    There are plenty of paid internships out there already. The paid internships are actually much more likely to get the student a real job after college, too. Also remember that the students are still paying tuition for the credit hours their internship earns them.
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:42AM (#43986151)

    We need these jobs that teach kids skills, and/or allow them to start to earn money, and find out what it entails for working a job, dependability and responsibility, and how to manage money.

    They can't very well learn to manage money when they aren't earning any.

  • Re:bye bye interns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:42AM (#43986159)

    Minimum wage is so low that any company who wants to grow their own talent can pay it painlessly.

    The skilled trades, unlike various Elitist Fuck Corporations, pay their apprentices because otherwise said apprentices wouldn't be able to have food, clothing and shelter.Internships/apprenticeships are increasing as they are the (proven over CENTURIES) way to grow skilled tradespeople.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:42AM (#43986161)

    some schools make you pay for the credits so work for free and pay to get credit for it.

  • Re:Genius judge (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Kevin108 (760520) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:42AM (#43986163) Homepage

    This will lead to a lack of internships; a lack of a way to gain experience before you begin marketing yourself as someone with skill in a given field. For many companies, if they have to pay interns, they simply won't create such positions.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:50AM (#43986275)

    Leapfrog Technology Group abuses interns

    Here is the job add with some added mark up

    Fun points are up 3 months full time with no pay

    and they have the balls to say "This means that if you don't believe there is any value to 12 weeks of unpaid on the job training, then this opportunity is not for you. We're looking for those individuals with long term aspirations in mind, not someone simply looking for a paycheck."

    added mark up start with --

    What is an Information Technology Internship?

    An IT Internship is both an educational experience and a potential full time job after completion.

    An IT Internship teaches students how to apply existing skills to real-world environments.

    An IT Internship gives students the opportunity to learn new skills to better prepare for the competitive job market after graduation.

    An IT Internship offers a variety of positions in at various types of organizations.

    --point 4 is part of payed jobs

    We offer internships to highly motivated individuals who want to enhance their IT exposure while working for a technology company focused on consulting and managed IT support. Our IT operations are located both in Chicago's Loop. We are currently seeking two interns to assist with our outsourced support program for our client located in the Chicagoland area.

    Desired Experience

    1 - 2 years --For a Work for free job?

    Desired Education

    High School or higher --OK

    Desired Technical Skills

    Windows 7, Internet Explorer, Outlook, Remote Access, Remote Desktop, Active Directory Administration, Basic Group Policy. --ok

    Desired Soft Skills

    Additional third party application skills and network infrastructure a plus. Ability to heavily multitask, excellent written and verbal skills, ability to understand business concepts and operations, independent worker, punctual, professional, asks detailed questions.

    Must enhance skills on their own time when necessary at home or in office. --so not only is this work for free it's work off the clock at home as well?

    Job Description and Career Opportunity

    Throughout the course of each day, Leapfrog Technology Group delivers the absolute highest quality and most reliable technical support and network design\implementation services to small and medium organizations between 5 to 150 computers with one or more servers. Leapfrog is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in the Midwest Region, focusing on network infrastructure, advanced network infrastructure and managed services. Established in 2002, the company employs a small group of highly capable senior engineers focused on providing IT strategy and ongoing operational support.

    We are currently seeking candidates through our Campus Relations Program for our Information Technology Development Program. This program provides challenging assignments and exceptional growth opportunities. In your role as a Help Desk Analyst, you will expand your skill set by providing prompt and effective support for our clients technical needs. Additionally, Leapfrog has a web design division, provides hardware\software sales, provides project management services, and in this role, additional non technical skills will be developed. This internship requires heavy multitasking, use of technology software to ease the burden on the support specialist, and is extremely challenging. Even for seasoned IT professionals, a role as an IT consultant is a very challenging one. We believe that this will be a position in which the staff is held to the highest standards and will be held accountable to use Leapfrog's proven methodologies.

    Must have the following qualities:

    Business savvy: You are smart and you understand the business implications of your ideas. You are successful in translating classroom training into workplace solutions.

    Results focused: You always give it your best but you're not satisfied until you've acco

  • by Whatsisname (891214) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:55AM (#43986379) Homepage

    By having them unpaid, you are essentially making those jobs only be accessible to people from wealthy families. Only people from wealthy families can afford to pay the bills while working for free. Everyone else has to find a paying job, which would then exclude them from being able to gain entry into those fields.

  • by Whatsisname (891214) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:56AM (#43986395) Homepage

    If those industries cannot survive without a large pool of free labor, then they should go the way of the dodo.

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

    by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:58AM (#43986415)

    Well, say goodbye to internships...

    Try having a look at a country where this has long been established in law, and you'll find internships are flourishing.

    What we've said goodbye to is the exploitation of free labour to do menial tasks that offered no real benefit to the intern. There's a great scheme in Scotland where the enterprise development agency funds internships for students/recent graduates at new startups. There are strict conditions attached to the money, as the internship has to be directly related to a specific project, so that the intern is exposed to the full lifecycle and gets genuine experience to talk about at interview. This gives the businesses the opportunity to take a chance on something new or different, benefiting everyone. (Normally.) In fact, there's a great history of companies taking on their interns after, as these companies are at a stage of rapid expansion.

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

    by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:58AM (#43986423)

    I always assumed interns actually performed services in relation to what their field of study is. Fashion students do fashion work like costumes, makeup, jewelry making, etc. Journalism students check facts, review articles, report on local/low importance stories. Other students perform tasks actually related to their future job. And these tasks for all interns include some grunt work such as cleaning up the shop, checking supplies, pumping the bellows at the forge, whatever is needed.

    But I don't think anyone goes to college to be coffee-handler or floor-sweeper. If that is the extant of their internship experience, they should be paid like the other employees. Or better, they should report that to their professor/school, and that company should be excluded from the internship choices. When their free labor pool disappears, they will stop abusing the process.

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

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:08PM (#43986593)

    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?

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:09PM (#43986627)

    You used to be free to die in the gutter. You used to be free to breathe asbestos on the job. You used to be free to be raped by the sweat shop owner.

    These regulations exist for good reason. I am offering a free one way trip to Somalia so you can check out the alternative. As part of my education for slashdot libertarians program I do require a refund if you ever leave Somalia.

  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:11PM (#43986659)

    And who are you to decide that rather than the employer and the employee involved? You learn a lot just from being on a movie set, working in a hospital, or in a senator's office or in a science lab. These are experiences that are extremely hard to get and valuable and many people will gladly do them for free without any of your additional arbitrary conditions.

    Yes, and you're still allowed to "just be on a movie set", because "just being" isn't working. It's the working that's the problem, because there you are, in front of people making millions of dollars, and they're trying to save $10 an hour on a runner by getting you to do it instead...? That's pathetic, really....

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

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:12PM (#43986673)

    Volunteering at for profit businesses is generally speaking illegal. Calling it something else does not fool the law. I would imagine they have trouble finding paid internships and outside pressure like college credits requires them to do this work.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:18PM (#43986761)
    Internships are meant to be educational, and for the benefit of the intern. People who take an internship are justified in expecting a program that is educational, and to their benefit. A program in which they perform work that a paid employee should be performing should quit once the nature of the job is made clear, but at that point, the employer has essentially committed fraud, violated the internship contract (implied or otherwise), and probably committed a significant amount of what an employer would call "time theft" if the tables were turned. Internships are not meant to be busy-work that gets you a back-slapping nudge-wink goodwill advantage purely by demonstrating that you're wiling to jump through hoops and suck down any shit employers might consider feeding you in the interest of their balance book. Employers who try to use them that way deserve punishment, just like any other criminal.
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dywolf (2673597) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:20PM (#43986789)

    this doesnt stop unpaid internships.
    RTFA.
    this stops unpaid interns being used as free labor for activites that cannot be onsidered educational. two film school students being given an internship on a movie and being used as unpaid labor instead of being TAUGHT THINGS. that is the sort of thing being stopped. not unpaid internships as a whole, but those which are simply trying to get free labor and not fulfilling the educational requirement.

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

    by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:21PM (#43986811)

    but some of the no pay interns are doing basic office work / basic labor and not stuff in there fields.

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

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:30PM (#43986967)

    The kid can go work at a gas station, or burger king or whatever.

    Your situation is bullshit and clearly there is a huge middle ground between your ideology and greece.

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

    by PraiseBob (1923958) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:34PM (#43987043)
    You are absolutely correct. Here's an excerpt from a slave owners diary in 1861:

    When Dick married Hetty, the Anderson house was next door. The two families agreed to sell either Dick or Hetty, whichever consented to be sold. Hetty refused outright, and the Andersons sold Dick that he might be with his wife. This was magnanimous on the Andersons' part, for Hetty was only a lady's-maid and Dick was a trained butler, on whom Mrs. Anderson had spent no end of pains in his dining-room education, and, of course, if they had refused to sell Dick, Hetty would have had to go to them. Mrs. Anderson was very much disgusted with Dick's ingratitude when she found he was willing to leave them. As a butler he is a treasure; he is overwhelmed with dignity, but that does not interfere with his work at all.

    Clearly the slave owning society feel they are being overly generous by giving an education to their property. They even gave him a choice of where to work for free! Your vision of society fits perfectly in line with the Antebellum south. (To be clear, I'm not calling you a racist, you're just pro-slavery which is actually frowned upon in most societies in the 21st century)
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robthebloke (1308483) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:44PM (#43987199)
    Yeah sorry, but no. I've run internship programs in the past, and fundamentally they all serve a single purpose: To ensure that a company can hire the best graduates possible.

    Hire an intern. Pay them well. Treat them well. Give them the best training your company can provide. After their 3months -> year placement, send them back to complete their degree knowing far more than when they arrived at your company.

    If you do this (and really it isn't very hard), then the intern will usually contact you before they've spoken to any other companies (which means you get the long term pay off). They'll also tell the other students in their year that you're a really cool company (which leads to more CV's arriving in your office), and they'll also tell their lecturers how great you were at training them (which usually means those same lecturers will pass you details on their best students for next year).
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:47PM (#43987259)

    they sued, it means they learned something from the movie studio

  • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:50PM (#43987291)

    the one and only purpose of interning is to have the opportunity to shine. It's difficult to get hired as an employee -- there's a lot to prove and a lot of competition. It's way easier as an intern. And it's the foot in the door. You do have the opportunity to do really well, get noticed, and eventually get hired. And all you need to do is to work for free until that happens. That's pretty swell.

    That's the lie they tell you, but don't believe it. They're really just using you. Statistically, in the fields that abuse unpaid internships, those with internships on their resumes get hired after graduation at a rate about 2% higher than those without.

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

    by radtea (464814) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:56PM (#43987389)

    I offered you a plain donut, you accepted a plain donut, that's the contract. Offer and acceptance. And that would probably be the last free donuts the office got.

    Now in plain fact YOU didn't offer anyone a "free donut": the corporation did. This is a critical distinction.

    Corporations exist solely by virtue of Nanny State interference in the operations of the Free Market.

    This gives corporations--which offer internships--a vastly privileged position in the negotiations they undertake with potential employees, interns, etc.

    Again: corporations are a privileged form of social organization by statute (the reforms to the Companies Act in Great Britain in the 1850's, and similar acts passed by parliaments and congresses around the world.) I own a corporation, and when I incorporated I did not engage in free an uncoerced trade with my fellow humans: I filed forms with the government that upon approval gave me as a corporate owner certain legal, state-defined and state-protected privileges that my employees do not have the benefit of.

    Advocates of Corporatism like yourself tend to forget this little detail: you as the owner or agent of a corporation have the backing of the massive, coercive power of the State. Your employees do not.

    So quit pretending you live in some mythical Free Market where the Nanny State hasn't tilted the scales massively in your favour. Show a little humanity and humility and decency, and remember that what the State giveth the People can damned well take away.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:08PM (#43987565)

    Unpaid internships are used as a class barrier in many industries. It is simply too expensive for any "lower class plebs" to get into fashion or whatever, because they have to pay cost of living in some place like New York for years on no wage to get a foot in the door.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:21PM (#43987779) Homepage Journal

    I hear similar complaints from businesses all the time: "Employees cost me X amount of money every year!"

    In fact, I hear it so often, I've taken to asking them, "Then why do you have any, if all they ever do is cost you money?"

    Never have gotten a straight answer...

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

    by PraiseBob (1923958) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:25PM (#43987815)
    My point is opportunity sometimes outweighs the downside of not getting paid.

    I fully understand the concept of being so desperate to have a job that you are willing to work for free in the hopes that it one day turns into a paying job. Ergo, you think the system is fair, because work experience is the payment rather than money. Are you aware that most slave-owners considered themselves to be good people? From the slavers perspective they provided free shelter, food and clothing to their slaves, and gave them a better quality of life, and longer life expectancy. They provided all these things in lieu of a salary, thus, it was in their eyes a fair system. You are echoing thousands of pro-slavery arguments from two centuries ago when you say that tertiary benefits make up for not paying a wage.
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:28PM (#43987863) Journal

    Unpaid internships are a scam. If the intern isn't doing work worth paying him minimum wage, what's the point of the internship? It becomes a rite of passage instead of on-the-job education.

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

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:35PM (#43987965)

    Now in plain fact YOU didn't offer anyone a "free donut": the corporation did. This is a critical distinction.

    Not really. Someone in the corporation made the decision, they made the offer.

    This gives corporations--which offer internships--a vastly privileged position in the negotiations they undertake with potential employees, interns, etc.

    Untrue. As a potential intern I am free to accept or decline any offer. The "Nanny State" does not give the company the right to force me to accept what they offer. As a corporation I cannot stuff unfrosted donuts down the throats of my employees, I can only offer them the option and let them decide.

    you as the owner or agent of a corporation have the backing of the massive, coercive power of the State. Your employees do not.

    Wow. You've identified yourself as a corporate owner that employees should stay away from, simply because you think you have the "massive coercive power of the State" behind you. "You vill eat that cheap donut, employee. Ve haf vays of making you eat..."

    Show a little humanity and humility and decency, and remember that what the State giveth the People can damned well take away.

    You're the one claiming massive coercive power given to you by some mythical State, and I'm the one who needs to learn humility? Yes, I guess you'd think that based on your Power And Leverage over Mortal Man. Perhaps you ought to notice that a large part of labor law deals with LIMITING what you, in your Massive Coercive Mode, can actually do to anyone. Perhaps an experiment is in order to help you identify your mistakes? Why don't you, as Corporate Overlord, try ordering your female employees (but only the pretty ones) to wear bikinis to work on Friday. That's a simple test of your power over them granted by the State, I think. If you can do that and not wind up with a NLRB complaint that sticks, more power to you. You've successfully cowed your female workers into thinking you have power that you really don't. My guess would be that you'd be found guilty of sexual harassment upon complaints of the pretty women, and discrimination from a complaint by the ugly ones, and fined a bit of money. But, until you try, and since you think you're that powerful, you have no reason not to, right? Pictures or it didn't happen.

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

    by tbannist (230135) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:12PM (#43988373)
    I think that analogy over simplifies the problem. The real issue is that the interns were promised an internship which would teach them valuable movie production skills, and instead they were given no training and used as unpaid waiters. The bait and switch is on the type of work they were promised that they would be doing. The company broke the contract and now owes them monetary compensation because they failed to provide the agreed upon compensation (training in the art of movie production).
  • Re:Genius judge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tbannist (230135) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:16PM (#43988403)

    You've just given an opinion why a contract might not be valid, but that says nothing about the legality. I can work for someone without a contract. I can also agree to work for someone for non-monetary compensation.

    Which the students did and in a court-of-law they proved the company failed to provide the required non-monetary compensation that had been promised.

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

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @02:44PM (#43988675)

    If an internship is done properly for the benefit of the intern, then it's worth doing it unpaid.

    That's true, but the cost to an organization of having an internship like yours is already much greater than paying you minimum wage. It took your boss's time, facilities, etc. etc. If it's worth it to an organization to have an intern do real internship work, then paying minimum wage shouldn't be a barrier.

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