Unpaid internships seem like a win-win situation for employers. They save money and get free work. Well, the days of interns logging hours for no monetary compensation may soon be a thing of the past.
In March 2012, Fox Searchlight Pictures was sued by some of their unpaid interns under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The interns, who worked on the movie “Black Swan”, claimed they were due “wages and other sums.”
The result? The interns won the case.
The case’s judge concluded:
– The interns received nothing approximating the education they would receive in an academic setting or in a vocational school
– They received no benefits from the relationship other than those that were “incidental to working in the office like any other employee and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them”
– They performed essential unpaid work that would otherwise have been done by paid employees
The court was not swayed by the facts that:
– The interns were not entitled to a job at the end of the internship
– They knew in advance that they would not be paid for their time and activities
So what does this mean for employers who depend on free work from interns? They should most definitely calculate the risks, and perhaps reconsider the idea altogether. Aside from the possible legal consequences, there are other downsides to hiring unpaid work – such as a lack of enthusiasm and work ethic on behalf of the intern.
What do you think? Should unpaid internships stay or go?