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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)

    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, Informative)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @03:04PM (#43988923)

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

    • 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.

      • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:32AM (#43985993)

        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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dywolf (2673597)

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

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

          by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:41AM (#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.

        • by pellik (193063)
          Students still pay tuition when they do internships. Volunteering is free, this is pay to work.
      • good enough does not work for office boy interns where they don't even do real work / do stuff they are not going to school for.

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

      by 54mc (897170) <samuelmcraven@ g m a i l.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, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:48AM (#43986251) Homepage
        I never understood how companies got away with this kind of stuff in the USA. I'm from Canada, and I've never heard of an unpaid intership happening here. If it does, I don't know why anybody would go for it. In university, we had a Co-op programme which required us to alternate between semesters of school and work. Took a little longer to finish your degree (but only a little bit more, we were either working or in school year round, and work only started after second year). After we graduated, we had 16 months of paid work experience. They didn't pay us as much as regular employees, but it wasn't minimum wage work either. And the co-op coordinators at the school ensured we were doing real work and not just fetching coffee and making photo copies.
    • 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."

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

        by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:47AM (#43986239)

        I hope you get modded up, as your comment gets to the core of the issue very nicely. I just wanted to expand on this:

        Nowadays every imbecile thinks that an "intern" is a source of free labor.

        Yeah, I run a very small software dev business, and on a couple of occasions I have hired interns for the summer. Of course, as I hope everybody here knows, in our industry interns get paid, and pretty well...

        A couple of times, in conversations with friends outside the industry, when this subject came up, there was a total disconnect. They wondered how the heck somebody like me could find interns, and it turned out that their bafflement was because they assumed that by "intern" I meant "unpaid". I was so shocked by this ridiculous assumption that the first time I was literally speechless for a few seconds while I processed the concept: "this person thinks that there are young people who will develop software for a for-profit entity without being paid, wtf...". Then I slowly explained: "no, in this industry employers consider it customary to pay our employees..."

      • If you want free labor and you're a for-profit business?

        Go to the Prison-Industrial Complex, pay them a low fee, and get your labor for next to nothing (or free).

        This has been about the only growth industry in the US for decades.

        This is very appealing to Red states as it gets them a good chunk of money both over and under the table whilst also satisfying their twisted Purtianical sadism fetishes. The fact that most of the sla^H^H^H workers are minorities is just gravy.

        Very related: for-profit prison c

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      2 off top of my head:
      to promote interest in job fields
      to pre-vet individuals who are interested in a job field

      there are many paid internships. there are many more unpaid ones. unpaid ones are well known for being abused and doing nothing educational or related to the students curriculum, instead being simply a source of free labor.

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

      by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:39AM (#43986107) Homepage Journal

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

      .. ? if you "hired" interns, you would pay them.
      using interns for just manual labor nothing to do with the subject they're studying is just.. well, it's sort of cheating them and not just sort of, it's downright fraud against the school institutions as well who count them as course credit - of course those institutions are to be blamed for the abuse of the system as well since if they require "internship" for graduation but have no qualifiers on the actual work then they're pretty much just participating in free manual labor work experience without pay program. it's stupid for everyone involved except for those who sell their services to someone and pocket the cash(half of worlds magazine adverts are photoshopped and laid out by free interns - but the company still bills the client for their time and that's just nasty).

      if they got nothing for the interns to internship in they shouldn't be taking them in. but free labor and intern bitches yayyyy so they take them even if they have no intention of teaching them anything or putting them into any work in the field their internship is supposed to be in.

      there's of course all sorts of other reasons for putting the hammer on it, because otherwise soon you'll mcd will no longer have any employees - just permanent interns who get paid 1/10th of the minimum wage as "expenses" for their work.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      "hired"

      hire - to engage the services of a person for a fee
      to engage temporary use of for a fee

      If you aren't paid you aren't hired by definition.

      Internships while in theory are for the benefit of the intern to get real world experience, it really is just an avenue for a company to enjoy free labor.
    • Re:Genius judge (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:53AM (#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: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.

    • I recall you as one of the people who insists that copying is stealing. You vehemently denounce piracy, saying that artists deserve to be paid, and people who just make a copy without paying are cheating the artists. Pirates are not paying for the labor, the hard work artists put into the creation of their works, and are therefore allegedly making it impossible to earn a living from art.

      But interns? If artists deserve compensation for labor, and not just once, but each time their work is used, surely i

  • Ripple effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:33AM (#43986009)

    Unpaid internships are a huge crutch perpetuating class divisions here in the US. I wonder what will change now that rich kids no longer have the advantage of being able to say "I'll work for free."

  • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833)

      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.

      • 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 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....

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        yes. fetching someone's coffee or being an unpaid janitor is really "educational" and totally "valuable experience" for a film school intern.

  • We have learned the lessons of Kramerica [youtube.com] and intern abuse.
  • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:37AM (#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 ;-)

  • I can't comment on specifics, as I've never done an internship, but my impression is that the theory is to get the intern a little bit of exposure to the field they are trying to get into, with the byproduct of some internships leading to legitimate jobs or networking with those they interned with. However, if the internships are being used as an excuse to use these interns as nothing but grunt workers for tasks completely unrelated to their field, it seems the exercise is a waste on any but a networking l

  • permatemps, contractors and so on are just other ways to get work for free / low cost and in the case of some contractors like fedex make them pay the costs of your business.

  • Need apprenticeships with real training in the IT / field.

  • I worked as an "intern" for 16 months for a telecom provider, and got what I considered to be a decent wage for it. (About 3/5 the starting wage for a fresh-out-of-school programmer at that company).

    If someone wants to volunteer for a position on their own time, then that's okay--but that's not what I'd call an internship position, and the system shouldn't be set up to have people needing to volunteer full-time.

    • If someone wants to volunteer for a position on their own time, then that's okay--but that's not what I'd call an internship position, and the system shouldn't be set up to have people needing to volunteer full-time.

      That's not OK, because then you have companies exploiting the constant stream of desperate unemployed people looking to get the experience that gets them their next job.

  • 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 zmaragdus (1686342) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @11:53AM (#43986327)
    I don't get why internships were ever unpaid in the first place. In the course of training someone to do the job they are interning for, they end up providing some form of valuable work, even if it is at a lower level of effectiveness/efficiency than a highly-skilled employee. As an engineer, I have the good fortune of being in a field where internships are almost universally paid, and paid well for that matter. (Many engineering internships run from double to triple minimum wage.) Even my most basic intern experience (which is barely considered "engineering" by my standards) paid over double minimum wage (back in 2006). I can't fathom a sort of situation where an intern provides absolutely no useful work. Can anyone provide an example?
  • by D1G1T (1136467) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @12:35PM (#43987065)
    I ran a company for quite a few years. The summer students I had were paid something, but I have to say that the assumption that employers are getting something for nothing is simply ridiculous. I had to do background checks before allowing them access to my business assets. I had to supply them with desk-space, a computer, a phone. I had to assign someone to train and then to supervise them. Most of their "work" was them learning to do the job. I had a couple who worked out really well, but most were revenue-neutral at best. The last few years I ended up not doing it even when kids begged to work for me for nothing. I would liken it to the opportunities available in international aid. Kids go off and volunteer at orphanages in India or whatever. These days, NGOs usually charge their volunteers a fee in exchange for the opportunity. They have figured out that, in the end, it _costs_ them money to host volunteers.
  • RTFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday June 12, 2013 @01:12PM (#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.

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