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View Full Version : Unpaid internships. Good work experience, or Illegal?



garhkal
06-09-2014, 07:59 PM
Last night i watched a segment on John Stossel about lawsuits being pursued against companies who 'hire without pay students to do internships, so they can get work experience. The logic some are using against this practice is that they are immoral, in that those doing the Internship don't get paid, so are violating work hiring practices.
Back when i went through English upper school (equivalent to US High school) we had "work experience" weeks where we spent 2-3 weeks unpaid at a firm in the local community, to gain experience at actual jobs. The same thing that Interns do.

So who is in agreement that internships should be sued/stopped cause they don't pay the intern?
Who is saying that is wrong, we need more work experience examples?

Also, i wonder if they DO go after all these firms that hire interns (such as most of the law industry and news business industry), are they also going to go after Congress and all the other spots in the Fed govt that relies on interns??

Some links..

http://unpaidinternslawsuit.com/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cameronkeng/2013/09/06/the-era-of-internships-are-over-never-hire-an-intern-again/

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/01/12/unpaid-internships-are-they-doomed/vi8MVMlqfeJQHlMY3vlBpJ/story.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/business/03intern.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

sandsjames
06-09-2014, 08:02 PM
Not sure why they would be illegal. The people don't have to become interns. It's not forced on them.

BENDER56
06-09-2014, 08:54 PM
Not sure why they would be illegal. The people don't have to become interns. It's not forced on them.

Yep. It's their choice. And it might pay off in the future. The biggest plus isn't the "experience" but the connections that can be made. In one of the college classes I took in 2011, Public Relations, the professor devoted a day to having former students return to talk about their post-college job search. Of course, it was a skewed sample because all the ones she invited had successfully found jobs.

All of them said their internships paid off. And not unsurprisingly, most of them were hired by the company for whom they had interned.

So I suppose if you're at all competent and you "fit in" with the other employees, an internship is a way to get your foot in the door. I suspect if you're incompetent and don't "fit in", all you'll have to show for an internship is that nebulous "experience."

Either way, doesn't anyone else think it's pathetic that in a country of supposed unlimited wealth and opportunities we have people resorting a form of indentured servitude to find a job?

sandsjames
06-09-2014, 08:56 PM
Either way, doesn't anyone else think it's pathetic that in a country of supposed unlimited wealth and opportunities we have people resorting a form of indentured servitude to find a job?

Not really. Actually, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more. What better way for an employer to actually find out if someone is competent than to have a trial run.

BENDER56
06-09-2014, 09:03 PM
Not really. Actually, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more. What better way for an employer to actually find out if someone is competent than to have a trial run.

It's great, I guess ... for them. I suppose as a matter of personal belief I think people should be compensated for their time and labor.

garhkal
06-09-2014, 09:03 PM
Not really. Actually, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more. What better way for an employer to actually find out if someone is competent than to have a trial run.

Exactly. But i also wonder why High schools don't do 'work experience' weeks or internships even if only for say 1 month, and just leave it to specific colleges and certain courses only.

sandsjames
06-09-2014, 09:08 PM
It's great, I guess ... for them. I suppose as a matter of personal belief I think people should be compensated for their time and labor.

Again, if people choose to do the internship then I can't see any flaws. Sometimes in life you have to make sacrifices.

Absinthe Anecdote
06-09-2014, 09:51 PM
The lawsuit centers on cases where the internship is grossly misrepresented by the company.

If the company promises an educational opportunity but has the intern doing nothing but menial tasks like janitorial work, then I think the intern has a valid reason to complain.

I don't think it entitles the intern to sue for a large amount of cash in damages, but it is surely an asshole move on the employer's part.

Most universities evaluate employers and don't offer credit for internships at companies that do that sort of thing.

In my mind, the university is far more liable than the company for not vetting the employer. I see it as the university as letting the student down more than I do the the company.

Here is an excerpt from the NYT article linked in the OP:

“We’ve had cases where unpaid interns really were displacing workers and where they weren’t being supervised in an educational capacity,” said Bob Estabrook, spokesman for Oregon’s labor department. His department recently handled complaints involving two individuals at a solar panel company who received $3,350 in back pay after claiming that they were wrongly treated as unpaid interns.

Many students said they had held internships that involved noneducational menial work. To be sure, many internships involve some unskilled work, but when the jobs are mostly drudgery, regulators say, it is clearly illegal not to pay interns.

One Ivy League student said she spent an unpaid three-month internship at a magazine packaging and shipping 20 or 40 apparel samples a day back to fashion houses that had provided them for photo shoots.

At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu.

Tone Thyne, a senior producer at Little Airplane, said its internships were usually highly educational and often led to good jobs.

Concerned about the effect on their future job prospects, some unpaid interns declined to give their names or to name their employers when they described their experiences in interviews.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 11:13 AM
Couldnt it be like "pro scout day" or the combines? I get it that people dont want to do work for nothing, but the company doesnt want to hire incompedence. I guess they can go the other route and start in the mail room or as a janitor and work their way up in 10 years instead of sacrificing a summer and maybe starting off in the middle of the road.

Absinthe Anecdote
06-10-2014, 11:57 AM
Couldnt it be like "pro scout day" or the combines? I get it that people dont want to do work for nothing, but the company doesnt want to hire incompedence. I guess they can go the other route and start in the mail room or as a janitor and work their way up in 10 years instead of sacrificing a summer and maybe starting off in the middle of the road.

You seem to be unfamiliar with internship programs that are offered through universities.

These programs are supposed to be vetted and evaluated by the university to avoid it being a waste of time for the student.

In the majority of internship programs, the student is getting university credit towards their major.

While it is reasonable to expect to do some grunt work during the internship, it is also reasonable to expect to get some exposure to your field of study.

Why would an engineering student want to spend their entire time with the company in the mail room or mopping floors? They should at least get to see the various aspects of a companies operations and how it is related to their field of study.

Why would a university want to give credit for an engineering degree for mopping floors?

I view this as primarily a failure of the university for pairing students with companies that do not have a structured internship program.

Most of these programs are competitive, so that means the company has several applicants to choose from. It also means that they have posted a description of what the student can expect to learn.

If the company misrepresents their internship program, then maybe they should compensate the interns.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 12:14 PM
You seem to be unfamiliar with internship programs that are offered through universities.

These programs are supposed to be vetted and evaluated by the university to avoid it being a waste of time for the student.

In the majority of internship programs, the student is getting university credit towards their major.

While it is reasonable to expect to do some grunt work during the internship, it is also reasonable to expect to get some exposure to your field of study.

Why would an engineering student want to spend their entire time with the company in the mail room or mopping floors? They should at least get to see the various aspects of a companies operations and how it is related to their field of study.

Why would a university want to give credit for an engineering degree for mopping floors?

I view this as primarily a failure of the university for pairing students with companies that do not have a structured internship program.

Most of these programs are competitive, so that means the company has several applicants to choose from. It also means that they have posted a description of what the student can expect to learn.

If the company misrepresents their internship program, then maybe they should compensate the interns.

I was right there with you. I was talking about without the internship, the student doesnt know what they are getting into, and the company doesnt know what kind of employee they are getting. Sure the school is also responsible for vetting the company and the work their students are going to be doing. But without the internship, people start in the ground floor, aka the mail room and work their way up.

I didnt play sports in college, but in high school, they counted as an elective. The sports in college are like internships for the pros to evaluate their perspective employees. I was trying to make an analogy.

Rusty Jones
06-10-2014, 12:31 PM
This has been controversial for a long time.

The problem with these unpaid internships is that it's a way for employers to scam free labor, thus costing actual job seekers. Secondly, there's no guarantee that the interns will be placed with the company for whom they provided free labor.

Last, but not least, once the "internship" expires, they simply replace the unpaid intern with a new unpaid intern, and the cycle continues. This provides employers with a potentially unlimited supply of free man hours.

The interns? They're getting suckered.

sandsjames
06-10-2014, 12:34 PM
The interns? They're getting suckered.By choice...

Absinthe Anecdote
06-10-2014, 12:39 PM
By choice...

Then all of your complaints about the Air Force were invalid, because you joined by choice.

Rusty Jones
06-10-2014, 12:49 PM
One doesn't get suckered by choice. That's why it's called getting "suckered."

Absinthe Anecdote
06-10-2014, 01:06 PM
One doesn't get suckered by choice. That's why it's called getting "suckered."

We really should go easy on him because he didn't even finish his CCAF degree. How can we expect him to have any knowledge about universities or internship programs?

sandsjames
06-10-2014, 01:36 PM
We really should go easy on him because he didn't even finish his CCAF degree. How can we expect him to have any knowledge about universities or internship programs?

Actually I have 2 CCAFs...

sandsjames
06-10-2014, 01:38 PM
Then all of your complaints about the Air Force were invalid, because you joined by choice.

Complaints are never invalid...the things you are complaining about are just accepted as part of the trade-off. Doesn't mean one can't complain about it. My wife does things that annoy me. These were things that annoyed me before we were married. I can complain and it's a valid complaint, but it's something I have to deal with.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 03:02 PM
One doesn't get suckered by choice. That's why it's called getting "suckered."

So are you saying they interns didnt know they werent going to be paid or do some meaningless taskes like fetch coffee? And you are right, just interning doesnt mean you get hired when you complete the work, but that could also be because that intern was an idiot and wouldnt fit with the company. Were you saying these interns should be an actual job listing for "coffee fetcher" or "doughnut grabber"? Perfessional "gofer"? If they hired someone to do these things, and only these things, what do you expect the starting pay to be? Would someone with the degree for say being a lawyer apply for this job in hopes that they may one day get hired as an actual lawyer when a position opened up?

Rusty Jones
06-10-2014, 03:33 PM
So are you saying they interns didnt know they werent going to be paid or do some meaningless taskes like fetch coffee? And you are right, just interning doesnt mean you get hired when you complete the work, but that could also be because that intern was an idiot and wouldnt fit with the company. Were you saying these interns should be an actual job listing for "coffee fetcher" or "doughnut grabber"? Perfessional "gofer"? If they hired someone to do these things, and only these things, what do you expect the starting pay to be? Would someone with the degree for say being a lawyer apply for this job in hopes that they may one day get hired as an actual lawyer when a position opened up?

Are you just arguing with me for the hell of it or something? You're not even addressing the points.

Stalwart
06-10-2014, 03:37 PM
A lot of an internship and the true compensation is the exposure, the intern getting exposure to the workforce etc. and in many cases the employer getting exposure to you.

On Capitol Hill, many staffers got their foot in the door with an unpaid internship. Not all interns become staffers, but many staffers were at some point an intern. Most of them are "coffee/donut fetchers" and make tons of copies, some do research etc. Making a good impression and getting a good referral letter on the way out is key.

Measure Man
06-10-2014, 05:09 PM
Internships for college credit are definitely valid, IMO. At least the kid is receiving something of value. Of course, it should be an educational internship, and that is indeed the university's responsibility...and their accrediting agency.

I did an internship for my bachelor's degree by teaching some community college classes in electronics, under the supervision of the regular instructor. My degree was not in electronics, but in teaching/education...I already had the electronics knowledge from my job/tech training.

That said...like any good thing, the internship deal can be abused. Just because someone volunteered for something does not give the employers the right to abuse them.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 05:18 PM
Are you just arguing with me for the hell of it or something? You're not even addressing the points.

I am asking your point of view.

Should the interns be paid a normal salary for say being a "gofer" at a lawyers office as they learn the ropes? I would think that if they are paid to be there, the employer would have more flexability to keep them doing meaningless tasks then to actually learn their perspective job. Just trying to get a sense of why they should be paid for being set up with hands on training and experience through the college who should be vetting the internships of these buisnesses. There is really only so much you can learn in a class room and without real life experiences, your work typically turns out to be crummy.

Rusty Jones
06-10-2014, 05:34 PM
I am asking your point of view.

Should the interns be paid a normal salary for say being a "gofer" at a lawyers office as they learn the ropes? I would think that if they are paid to be there, the employer would have more flexability to keep them doing meaningless tasks then to actually learn their perspective job. Just trying to get a sense of why they should be paid for being set up with hands on training and experience through the college who should be vetting the internships of these buisnesses. There is really only so much you can learn in a class room and without real life experiences, your work typically turns out to be crummy.

Why shouldn't they? They're taking advantage of people who are trying to get their foot in the door, and most likely won't.

Would YOU hire somebody in a position that requires a degree, just because you observed them play "girl friday" for FREE for a few weeks?

I'd probably be LESS likely... I have very little respect for anyone who is easily taken advantage of, and being easily taken advantage would make you a poor fit for any job that requires a level of trust - which is to say, most.

And not all interns do that type of stuff. Some actually do perform jobs that contribute value to the organization.

garhkal
06-10-2014, 06:32 PM
If the company misrepresents their internship program, then maybe they should compensate the interns.


Now that i can agree with. Just like we sue/penalize companies for other instances of misrepresentation/lying, so too should it apply here.



I didnt play sports in college, but in high school, they counted as an elective. The sports in college are like internships for the pros to evaluate their perspective employees. I was trying to make an analogy.

That's actually a good Analogy WJ..


A lot of an internship and the true compensation is the exposure, the intern getting exposure to the workforce etc. and in many cases the employer getting exposure to you.

On Capitol Hill, many staffers got their foot in the door with an unpaid internship. Not all interns become staffers, but many staffers were at some point an intern. Most of them are "coffee/donut fetchers" and make tons of copies, some do research etc. Making a good impression and getting a good referral letter on the way out is key.

Plus as already mentioned, they get college credit for it, so are being compensated in that manner.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 06:43 PM
Why shouldn't they? They're taking advantage of people who are trying to get their foot in the door, and most likely won't.

Would YOU hire somebody in a position that requires a degree, just because you observed them play "girl friday" for FREE for a few weeks?

I'd probably be LESS likely... I have very little respect for anyone who is easily taken advantage of, and being easily taken advantage would make you a poor fit for any job that requires a level of trust - which is to say, most.Depends on how they worked really. If they work hard for me without recieving a check from me, immagine how they would work when I pay them.


And not all interns do that type of stuff. Some actually do perform jobs that contribute value to the organization.
I would suspect most interns do actual work. Just some stuff is the intiation/rookie tasks like in the military. I signed up to work on electronics, but as the lower rank, I was expected to take out the trash, sweep and clean and do other "gofer" tasks that the higher ranks didnt have to preform. Interns have to learn the job IMO, and they are typically getting some credit for school out of it too. So they are getting "paid" to learn hands on type tasks. Kind of like the football and baseball players in college are doing. Technically, they are interns in sports training to become highly paid professionals.

Rusty Jones
06-10-2014, 06:45 PM
Ah, nevermind.

There was something else I thought was being discussed.

About two or three years ago, employers were actually selling an internship-type thing to the unemployed, where they'd get their foot in the door by doing it. It was, and still is, a scam. Again, once it's over, they'd simply replace the person with the next sucker who'll work for free.

A situation where someone is doing it for college credits is different.

WILDJOKER5
06-10-2014, 06:53 PM
Ah, nevermind.

There was something else I thought was being discussed.

About two or three years ago, employers were actually selling an internship-type thing to the unemployed, where they'd get their foot in the door by doing it. It was, and still is, a scam. Again, once it's over, they'd simply replace the person with the next sucker who'll work for free.Yeah, now thats a disgrace. "Let me pay you to work for you for free". Thats just slavery.


A situation where someone is doing it for college credits is different.
See, we can come to a common understanding. :)

Rainmaker
06-10-2014, 09:14 PM
I was right there with you. I was talking about without the internship, the student doesnt know what they are getting into, and the company doesnt know what kind of employee they are getting. Sure the school is also responsible for vetting the company and the work their students are going to be doing. But without the internship, people start in the ground floor, aka the mail room and work their way up.

I didnt play sports in college, but in high school, they counted as an elective. The sports in college are like internships for the pros to evaluate their perspective employees. I was trying to make an analogy.

You can only do an unpaid Internship, If you have the money for someone else to bankroll you for the 6 months or whatever time you're not getting paid. In most cases, the kids are either rich kids living on mommy and Daddy's dime or else they are being made into corporate debt slaves and living on student loans that they will never be able to pay off.

To sum up: Unpaid Internships are Rayciss. NomSayin?

Measure Man
06-10-2014, 09:20 PM
Couldnt it be like "pro scout day" or the combines?

Hmmm...yes...the combine and scout days should probablly be paid.

I guess they are more like interviews than internships though. With an internship, you can be talking months of work...that's a loooong interview!!


I get it that people dont want to do work for nothing, but the company doesnt want to hire incompedence.

It's pretty common for jobs to have a probationary period where they can just let you go.

I don't think unpaid internships are intended to provide the company a free probationary period...


I guess they can go the other route and start in the mail room or as a janitor and work their way up in 10 years instead of sacrificing a summer and maybe starting off in the middle of the road.

So, if your'e getting paid it takes 10 years to move up...if you work for nothing, you'll be qualified in a summer? How does that work?

BENDER56
06-10-2014, 11:09 PM
By choice...

I think I've figured out what bothers about this.

Yes, this is an agreement willingly entered into by the intern. So on the surface it seems there's nothing to criticize about the arrangement, and there isn't.

But I guarantee if job seekers had better options, few, if any, of them would take an unpaid internship.

It's not the internships that bother me, it's that in America today -- the supposed land of unlimited opportunity -- people's options are so crappy that giving up ones time and labor for free seems like an attractive choice.

So go ahead; work for free. Yes, it's your choice. But it's a sign that things aren't well.

sandsjames
06-10-2014, 11:13 PM
I think I've figured out what bothers about this.

Yes, this is an agreement willingly entered into by the intern. So on the surface it seems there's nothing to criticize about the arrangement, and there isn't.

But I guarantee if job seekers had better options, few, if any, of them would take an unpaid internship.

It's not the internships that bother me, it's that in America today -- the supposed land of unlimited opportunity -- people's options are so crappy that giving up ones time and labor for free seems like an attractive choice.

So go ahead; work for free. Yes, it's your choice. But it's a sign that things aren't well.

Internships were popular even when our economy was at it's peak. It's a means to an end for many.

GeoDude
06-11-2014, 01:05 AM
The lawsuit centers on cases where the internship is grossly misrepresented by the company.

If the company promises an educational opportunity but has the intern doing nothing but menial tasks like janitorial work, then I think the intern has a valid reason to complain.

Exactly.


I don't think it entitles the intern to sue for a large amount of cash in damages, but it is surely an asshole move on the employer's part.


On the contrary, if I got duped into a bullshit internship that taught me nothing - I would sue them for full pay for that time - heck - I would sue them for $24 an hour - I could have spent that wasted time as a GS tech for that pay.

Rainmaker
06-11-2014, 03:14 PM
Again, if people choose to do the internship then I can't see any flaws. Sometimes in life you have to make sacrifices.

Not getting paid and making sacrifices = White Privilege.

Rainmaker
06-11-2014, 03:17 PM
A lot of an internship and the true compensation is the exposure, the intern getting exposure to the workforce etc. and in many cases the employer getting exposure to you.

On Capitol Hill, many staffers got their foot in the door with an unpaid internship. Not all interns become staffers, but many staffers were at some point an intern. Most of them are "coffee/donut fetchers" and make tons of copies, some do research etc. Making a good impression and getting a good referral letter on the way out is key.

One can never learn the value of Brown nosing early enough

Stalwart
06-11-2014, 08:10 PM
One can never learn the value of Brown nosing early enough

I used the following basic criteria to evaluate 3 interns last year and is my general thoughts when Sailors (etc) are getting out and ask to use me as a reference.

-Showing up on time for work
-Performing the tasks assigned to you, and how well you perform them (even if it is just fetching coffee)
-Ability to work without over-supervision
-Positive mental attitude
-Dressing appropriately for the workplace. This one actually is interesting on Capitol Hill where business attire is required and seeing young 20-somethings who really don't understand how to dress in a professional environment. The term "skintern" was also used to refer to those who thought professional attire = going out on Saturday night attire.

I don't consider any of it "brown-nosing."