Saturday, April 3, 2010

Your Internship Is Probably Illegal

So I'm bumping today's planned post to link this article on The New York Times.

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.

Like most studios we get a lot of requests for "internships".

Many companies take this as shorthand for "free menial labor with the possibility of free advanced labor."

People justify these positions as "providing opportunity" and "making career connections".  They may very well do that, but they also qualify as "slavery" and "against the law".


Sean said...

I was at a CE seminar a while back and learned that being salaried, even with a management title, doesn't mean you shouldn't be paid overtime if you're over 40 hours. If you're ownership or a principle decision maker for the firm (bascially an owner) you may not be entitled to it. Otherwise the presumption is that the employee is entitled to it.

roconnor said...

Very true, Sean.

That happens in animation a lot. Not so much in live production, the guilds for below the line workers are vibrant.

In animation, most of the entry level workers like what the field offers and enjoy doing it for free. Companies -through decades of mismanaged budgets -need to fill gaps in the production pipeline with these workers.

Later, as your career advances you take on a "we're all in this together mentality" and put in 10, 20 hours a week overtime (rarely paid).

We pay everybody (unless you're working for school credit). In part because that's the law, in part because we're profiting (in theory) from a worker's contributions.

The upshot is that we have fewer workers and thus fewer opportunities to groom talent or to produce unfinanced work. It would also put us at competitive disadvantage if Brian and myself didn't compensate with a level of production involvement which is unusual for management in commercial animation.

David B. Levy said...

Good topic... I'm blogging on this tomorrow too...

the plummer said...

Gotta leave a thank you, Richard, for bringing me on as a paid intern back in school. At first I thought it merely generous to be in such a position, but when I mentioned that I had landed a paid internship to my father he told me there shouldn't be any other way. Being a student I was under the assumption that it could be either or and be ok. My father works as a network supervisor for a big life reinsurance co. and told me they pay ALL their interns, no matter what they do. With the ammount of work any position does in animation, even a kid operating a scanner, it's still work in animation and should be compensated in some way. Thanks for linking to that NYT piece and bringing this up.

Elliot Cowan said...

Where I'm from we don't have interns.
We have a work placement thing that goes on in the 10th grade and you're required by law to be paid.
There's a minimum wage but most folks are paid more.
I did a fortnight at McMillan Publishing and another fortnight at a design studio and was paid full wages and had lunch and transport paid for.

This intern thing is something that, on paper, is a great idea, but it's hard for me to reconcile yet another circumstance in which a commercial artist is working for no money.

I guess there's an argument to be made that you can make contacts and form relationships and learn stuff during an internship, but you can do all this without working for free, I think.

Ray said...

Many thanks, Richard, for sharing this important article. Too little attention has been paid to this badly abused and abusive practice.

roconnor said...

Jeez, Jessica, we should be thanking you.

I only wish we could have kept you in New York for such meager wages.