Internships are a necessity to survive in any career path. We students need to get that “professional experience” otherwise a potential employer would not give our cover letter or resume a second glance.Yet while in the internship, we get abused and used to no ends and “cannot do anything about it.”
Apparently, we can complain. In a Slate article, published Monday, an intern at Harper’s Bazaar filed a lawsuit for the company’s failure to pay minimum and overtime wages during her unpaid internship. According to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, employers of unpaid interns must provide a position that is for the benefit of the intern, and should not assign tasks that paid employees would do.
When I did my internship during this past summer, I was fortunate enough to get paid. However some of the tasks that were being given to me did not seem to be for the benefit of me but rather for the benefit of the company. (I choose to not disclose where I worked.)
The tasks included basically writing a social media manual for the employees of the company so when I left, they could maintain the social media outlets I created for their company. I would maintain the outlets during my stay on the “staff” and I still get occasional emails with questions about how to post a tweet.
I guess I cannot complain, since I got paid for my time, but if that position were to be given to a future intern and they did not get paid, I would sue the company for them. These days, and any day I guess, interns are used as free labor to do the grunt work that the paid employees cannot be convinced to do. There were days that went by when the intern supervisors would give me random tasks just to “keep me busy,” which did not have anything to do with my original job description.
Let’s just say that the next time I accept an internship, I kind of want to write up my own contract stating things that I will not do, including coffee runs, Facebook status updates, tweets and just about anything that a normal human can do easily on their own.