Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are companies taking unfair advantage of unpaid or low-paid interns?

Time Magazine, April 12 2010, p 63, has an intriguing article by Eve Tahmincioglu, “Cash Crunch: working for free: in this job market, even midcareer professionals are interning for no pay”, to avoid gaps on resumes. The online version calls the article “The boom in adult interns”, link (web url) here. But volunteering for “for-profit” companies is a legal no-no, and companies can’t fire people and replace them with interns. The Department of Labor has criteria for legitimate internships, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, link here   Often academic credit is a requirement. (Think about medical interns in hospitals and their hours, though; they "pay their dues".)

The Time article tells of a writer who worked unpaid for a website and appreciated the exposure. But she could have done that all on her own.

There is a group in Britain that deals with the issue, “Rights for Interns,” link (web rul) here.

I found an earlier spin on the topic with respect to the Open Source movement on Time by Justin Fox, “Getting Rich off those who work for free”, link here.

But as far back as 1994, after an earlier recession, Bob Weinstein had written a book “I’ll work for free: A short term strategy for a long term payoff”. It sounds a bit of market fundamentalism.

I have seen private companies hire interns from computer programming schools, and I've seen resumes that offer to "volunteer" for a while first. That probably don't show optimum confidence and enthusiasm.

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