“Employers grow reluctant to offer internships following complaints”

by Walter Olson on April 3, 2012

Gee, thanks, lawsuit-filers: “Internships can be the key to the start of a successful career, but the positions are getting harder to find because a lot of employers are now nervous to offer them.” [KHOU] A New York attorney has filed a much-publicized series of suits seeking class action status to represent unpaid interns at organizations including Harper’s Bazaar magazine and the Charlie Rose show. [Atlantic Wire]

Relatedly or otherwise, a federal judge has dismissed the class action filed by social activist Jonathan Tasini alleging that the Huffington Post was violating the rights of its unpaid bloggers by basing a profitable media platform on their work. [Reuters, AP]

{ 9 comments }

1 Speed 04.03.12 at 12:47 pm

Perhaps they should charge tuition and mail out a certificate upon completion …

2 Paid Worker 04.03.12 at 12:58 pm

Gee, you act like the title of the post is a bad thing…I think it’s a good thing that employers might stop unpaid internships. Since I entered the work force it’s become clear that many employers have found a trap door that lets them “hire” interns to do all the scut work for free…anything that can reverse that trend, is probably good for our economy.

3 Hugo S. Cunningham 04.03.12 at 1:23 pm

Another criticism of unpaid internships is that they rig the job market in favor of the wealthy whose parents can support them in an unpaid job. Is there a better alternative to running up thousands in school costs every month?

4 Jerry Vandesic 04.03.12 at 4:58 pm

I’m confused by the inclusion of the bit about the Huffinton Post bloggers. Are either of the parties claiming that the bloggers were interns?

5 Ron Miler 04.04.12 at 10:14 am

This is one of those “I think it is having an effect maybe so I’ll report that it is” kinda things. Not to nitpick, but it would be nice to have conclusion that are supported by some data other than “some guy says.” Because I doubt the unpaid internship market has been greatly impacted.

Hugo, the world is rigged in favor of kids with wealthy parents. Changing internships won’t change that calculus much. But is getting a cheap look at what you would actually be getting if you hire someone a bad thing? I don’t think so.

6 Leafs004 04.04.12 at 10:39 am

My unpaid internship helped me make a few contacts that I wouldn’t otherwise have met. While I didn’t end up working for the company that I interned for, one of those contacts tipped me off about a job opening at a different, and referred me to the hiring manager.

Paid worker, there are many benefits to working an internship. Obviously some companies may abuse the interships, however, I was under no delusions as to my pay, no one made me accept the internship, and therefore can’t claim I was exploited.

7 Paid Worker 04.04.12 at 1:45 pm

Leaf – I agree individuals shouldn’t be able to sue, having internships eyes-wide-open. However, my problem with internships is not the classic true internship. My concern is more systemic and universal, seeming (from personal observation) that many companies have newly discovered a pool of unpaid workers that they are calling “interns”, which surely in some % is replacing a pool of paid workers. That can’t be a good thing for anyone except the corporate bottom line, and I wonder if there is a more systemic way to attack it, since I don’t support individual suits. In other words, although I have a natural and instinctive negative reaction to most plaintiffs’ suits, I don’t with these. Let’s see where they go.

8 Yeaah 04.05.12 at 2:34 am

@Leafs004 If that thing would be a “your first position” instead of “internship”, you would find the same contacts. “First positions” pays less than second positions anyways, precisely because of inexperience.

Maybe I’m in different field, but I was looking for a job instead of internship. My experience was, that people that went for internships (in other companies) did not learned more than me. Nor did they get more contacts. The only difference was, that I was payed money.

If they landed in a good company, then there was no difference (except pay). If they landed in a bad one, the company used them as cheap labor. Of course, that could happen with a first job too (except that they would get money).

As far as long term go, there was no difference altogether. Of course, if it would be impossible to find a job without previous internship, I would have to work for free too. I doubt that our economy would gained a lot by me working for free.

9 Leafs004 04.05.12 at 3:50 pm

Paid worker – I can empathize with your points as there are companies who do abuse the rules. At the same time, if you’re working for one of these companies for an extended amount of time for no money, that’s the employee/interns issue. There is nothing stopping you from moving on to something better.

Yeaah – My internship lasted 3 months. For me, I was in the right place at the right time as I suspect the recommendation from my supervisor positively influenced the hiring manager as I beat out several other candidates. As I was struggling to find an entry level position in my field, the internship did its job.

If you wanted to find a “first position” instead of being an intern, that is your decision, however, I don’t agree with any laws or regulations that limit how much experience someone can get. I even argue for the elimination of the minimum wage law. Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and many other economists make good arguments why a “living wage” leads to higher unemployment, and the most affected are those who need working skills the most.

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