ProPublica is launching an investigation into internships after a recent study found that more than half of graduating college seniors held one.
ProPublica says legal protection for interns, particularly those who are unpaid, hasn't kept up with their growth in popularity, pointing to a lawsuit filed by 28-year-old Hearst Corporation intern.
The U.S. Department of Labor says an employer must meet the following six criteria in order to offer an unpaid internship:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; - The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern; - The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff; - The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded; - The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and - The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
I accepted an unpaid internship my junior year of college. Over the summer, I worked at a weekly newspaper for five days out of the week and a movie theater for the remaining two, the latter of which I was obviously paid to do.
I got a lot of value out of it. There weren't any other reporters. The editor created a lot of the news content herself, so she let me explore whatever feature stories I wanted to do and helped me hone my police/beat reporting.
I didn't feel overworked, but again, I was not there for 40 hours out of the week as the woman claims in her lawsuit against Harper's Bazaar. I also knew that having an internship would give me an edge other graduates might not have. I think it is almost expected now, so I was more willing to forgo wages because I knew in the end, it would benefit me.
Did you take an unpaid internship? How would you grade your experience? Do you think interns deserve more legal protection?
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