The government is finally cracking down on what most people have considered free labor for years: the unpaid intern. And in the recession, when employers would gladly take an unpaid worker over a paid one and with thousands of unemployed recent grads to choose from, unpaid interns have become a major part of the current workforce.
According to the NYT, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 83 percent of graduating students had held internships in 2008, up from 9 percent in 1992. The article continues, “This means hundreds of thousands of students hold internships each year; some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half are unpaid.”
And all the corporations getting by without making any new hires can be fined for violating minimum wage laws, as officials in Oregon, California, and other states have already done.
Apparently, if the internship involves more drudgery than education (coffee runs and copies anyone?), not paying the intern is illegal.
Federal regulators say that receiving college credit does not necessarily free companies from paying interns, especially when the internship involves little training and mainly benefits the employer.
Try telling that to your boss. And not getting fired or a horrible recommendation.
And then there’s the problem of unpaid internships catering to the wealthy kids who can afford not to make money for a semester. And take it from me, even years of unpaid internships won’t necessarily get you a job upon graduation.