Last week, The Atlantic Wire posted an article that questioned if the days of unpaid internships are numbered. Two interns who worked on the movie Black Swan sued 20th Century Fox for not paying them a proper salary...and won. You can read more about the details of the lawsuit here.
While that’s an amazing outcome for the Black Swan interns, what does that mean for the rest of us? The new precedent that developed from this case states that employees should be covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) unless the internship meets six criteria that says it is okay to use young workers without pay. After reading over the FLSA’s “Test for Unpaid Interns,” it is quite clear that most unpaid “internships” do not meet this criteria. Most of these interns are performing the same jobs as employees, and should be compensated as such.
So with this new precedent brought to light, why are there no summer intern riots in the streets? For one, this story just broke less than a week ago. After a quick Google search I found that this story has ran on The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post. However, the ruling on unpaid internships has yet to make it to major news networks such as CNN, CBS, or FOX. Only two networks have reported anything on the lawsuit: NBC and ABC.
Fortunately, the story has begun to gain some traction over the weekend. In true grassroots fashion, blogs have been covering this new development in full force. Could that be because the unpaid interns are at the helm of these blogs? Regardless of who’s responsible for getting the information out, the important thing is that it starts a conversation.
Another reason why people may not be so quick to protest is simply because they like their internship the way it is. Sometimes just the rush of doing work in your desired profession is enough. For some, the promise of gained experience and knowledge is fulfilling on its own. However, for those who aren’t as easily fulfilled, take the time to look at the FLSA as written by the U.S. Department of Labor. You may be surprised to discover that your summer internship may just be your summer job.