End of the Line for Unpaid Internships?


The days of unpaid internships could come to an end soon depending on a Federal Court decision. A judge ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of their 2010 movie “Black Swan.”

Unpaid internships are a great opportunity for students seeking experience and connections for various career fields. Many students get a foot in the door working as an intern and can gain an upper hand.

I have been lucky enough to gain amazing experiences through my unpaid internships over the past few years. I believe that depending on the internship, most of the time they really pay off. Most broadcast news internships are unpaid so I was always anticipating not earning any money. However Google recently reported that their interns make around $6,000 a month. While that must be nice, I understand that is unrealistic for many employers.

I have mixed feelings about this court decision. On one hand, I would love to get paid for my internship, because who wouldn’t!? You are extremely lucky if you can snag a broadcast internship that pays. That being said, I believe that instead many companies won’t change all of the available internships from unpaid to paid, instead many companies would probably just do away with their internship programs altogether. At my current internship, it is more about them helping me to learn, practice, make connections and further my resume. I feel that this kind of unpaid internship is extremely beneficial and most students wouldn’t mind not getting paid, especially since that is the current norm for similar positions.

There are six stipulations that The Department of Labor is trying to distinguish:
1. The internship should be similar to training and adopt an educational atmosphere
2. Must benefit the intern
3. Intern does not replace regular staff
4. Employer does not gain advantages from the work of the intern, sometimes can be set back.
5. Intern is not guaranteed a job after the internship
6. All parties understand that the intern is not getting paid.

I am curious to see how this decision plays out. Many companies will likely become wary of this legal nightmare in the making. I can only hope that we do not see the demise of many internship opportunities. Hopefully this will be the spark to start some companies on re-vamping their intern programs.


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