But I Already Knew How To Answer A Phone

internship Unpaid internships may have started out as a way of gaining experience and ‘getting your foot in the door’ but they have been transformed by many for-profit employers into a bottomless pool of free labor. The New York Times reports that several states and the federal Labor Department are starting to crack down and step up enforcement.

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.

The situation as it is now is a revolving door of college students place-holding what used to be entry level jobs for the next unpaid college intern. The idea that an internship would help a graduate get that first job has been turned completely on its head.

(A corollary of this problem afflicts designers, photographers, architects, etc., already in the workforce, who are often invited to contribute their work gratis because it will look so great in their portfolios, blah blah blah. The villains in these scenarios are often in the non-profit sector. Tired of being asked to work for nothing with the promise of more work in the future, Providence designer Chelsea DeSantis started an amusing and infuriating collection of insulting job postings aptly called “More Work in the Future”.)

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