During my morning read I stumbled across this article on Huffington Post:
A former fashion industry intern is suing Hearst Corporation (they own a whole bunch of big name magazines, well pretty much all of them) in a class action suit on the grounds that her internship experience with them (unpaid and overworked) did not meet the requirements given by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The fashion industry is well-known for their intense internships – they’re usually only for school credit and involve a lot of heavy lifting. But, these internships are still quite competitive – it’s tough to get your foot in the door of the fashion industry, because it’s all about who you know. So until now, the whole compensation issue was tolerated.
This suit is actually the second suit brought to court on the topic. Here are the highlights:
- Internships, according to the guidelines, must be similar to “educational” training, must provide no “immediate advantage” to employers and must not displace regular salaried employees. If internships fail to meet these requirements, they are considered work, and subject to regulations like minimum wage.
- The fashion world is taking a “wait and see” approach to the lawsuit, according to Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute and professor at Fordham University. “No one is changing their programs just yet as that would be an advance admission of guilt,” she said. “But there is some quiet attention to exactly what kind of work interns are doing.”
- Only recently, in the current bleak job market, have internships begun to generate debate. With only 54 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds currently employed, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, internships are replacing entry level jobs.
- The proliferation of internships also raises a class issue — for the most part, only children with wealthy parents can afford to spend much of their early twenties working unpaid jobs.
- Susan Scafidi thinks that Wang and her lawyers’ biggest challenge will be getting more interns to come forward and join the class action suit. Interns who can afford to work for free have little incentive to sue and risk being blacklisted for jobs.
- As they stand, the Department of Labor’s guidelines are largely up to interns to enforce. With no legal body currently investigating company practices, interns must come forward and speak about violations for any changes to occur.
Although all of my internships have been paid thus far (one was unpaid for a month, but then turned paid for the rest of time), I still have a few friends who have done unpaid internships which have pros and cons.
In this job market, college students and recent grads are usually grabbing at any relevant job experience, so unpaid internships do have their perks that often outweigh compensation. Read this article about the benefits of unpaid internships.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
PS. Did you see?!! There’s such a thing as a fashion law school. Um, yes please. Definitely considering it as I look at law schools. Super cool!
PPS. Happy Valentine’s Day – may your day be filled with lots of love!Photo via Huffington Post through Getty Images.