Sick Of “Free Internship” Jobs? New Ruling May End Them Forever

If you surf Craigslist as a creative for hire it not uncommon to come across ads asking for film crews, sound man, photographers and interns in exchange for learning experience.

Sick Of "Free Internship" Jobs? New Rulling May End Them Forever

While sometime this is a fair deal (I know several photographers, I’d be willing to “intern” for) sometimes the interns are nothing more than coffee fetching gimps only gaining experience at drivers. Looks like things are about to change with a new ruling on the Black Swan Internship Lawsuit.

Some Background

Alexander Footman and Eric Glatt were interns on the Oscar winning Black Swan. Their internship pretty much sucked as they learned very little and mostly moved things from one location to another.

So, the duo did not fret and took 20th Century Fox to court.

The News

New ruling made by U.S. federal judge William Pauley on the case of Black Swan internship makes it clear that interns cannot be hired for zero pay.

If an intern is taken on there is a clear criteria of what constitutes a no pay internship:

  1. 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;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. 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;
  5. The intern isnot necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

At the end of the day, the judge not only ruled that the duo were misclassified as ‘unpaid interns’ while they were actually ‘employees’ and “worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer“, but also allowed a class action suit to allow exploration of internships throughout the entirety of Fox Entertainment Group.

That is one major blow to the let’s call them interns and not pay them movement. On the other hand many, many great collaborations are done on a non pay basis, I Would love to hear your thoughts.

[via the Atlantic wire]

  • Josh

    If you are stupid enough to agree to work for no pay, in a job which does not benefit you post-experience, then that is your idiocy, and shouldn’t be actionable after the fact. Unless they were promised wages/college credit/etc… that they did not recieve? I wouldn’t work for free, for just about anyone, and if I did choose to do so, and felt i was getting the benefits I thought I would, I’d quit, and do something else. The one thing i thoink needs reform, is the idea that you must intern to recieve a paid gig later. That is often thought of as “paying your dues”, but is really just another type of kickback system.

  • Ikke

    In our country it’s forbidden to pay interns. If you get paid, you internship doesn’t count and has to be redone. So if you actually go to a photographers school, you pay the school €1000,- a year and al your internships, you work for bogus. Only thing is, since you need to do certain assignments for school, you can’t learn nothing. Also the intern-place has to be ‘on the list’ aka checked.

  • Renato Murakami

    This will always be a polemic issue because it lies in some gray area that will never be completely solved.
    I’ve seen several businesses profiting from unpaid internship without a hint of shame. Students agreeing with very bad conditions because they were obliged to get some sort of internship as part of whatever couse they were graduating, or because of big promises made by relevant companies in the industry.
    But I’ve also seen unpaid internship that had lots to offer for students, and that were only possible to exist because they were unpaid. Start ups, NGOs, businesses that already have enough employees…
    And then, I’ve even seen one case which a big company had unpaid interns that really learned a lot there and thought it was worth it, while in the exact same company they had interns that went to other areas and were used much like slave labor – they got nothing from it (despite all the promises), but stayed there because they needed to, for all sorts of reasons.
    It’s a complex system. I know it’s easy to reduce things and say something like “if you are not liking it, just quit”. But that’s not the way it goes, and we all know that. Reputation in the market, course policies, promisses that could or could not be delivered, and tons of other factors will play their part.
    The one thing that is right though is that unpaid internship needs close regulation and monitoring. Internship in general needs it, and I hardly ever see it happening.

  • Kien

    I once interned at Milk Studios as a lighting assistant. I thought I was getting the opportunity of a lifetime. I spent 12 hours building a “hotel bedroom” from scratch. A lot of these guys work 30+ hours straight. Imagine about 30 hours of straight construction-like labor, moving large equipments and sandbags all day long.

    On top, every light assistant that wasn’t an intern was paid about $4.00 an hour. Everyone from the group said the same thing. “I’m here to pay dues.” I asked all the seniors if they KNEW anyone who has made it out of the cesspool and moved onto bigger opportunities from Milk Studios. They all have no idea. That conclusion was enough for me to leave after the first day.

    Honestly, I became more successful paying my own dues and creating my own work. I think Milk Studios is a great company, I just think they should move their funds from the six figure freelance photographer budget to the others who also make the projects run smoothly.

    But back to the point. I’ve interned in many places for free and got fucked over. However, interning here for one day seared a burning disgust at free internships. In other words, I probably will never do another one for the rest of my life.

  • pubilius

    I find it amazing two adults freely enter into an arrangement, and at
    its conclusion they want to change the agreement. They could have walked
    at any time they felt they were not getting what they thought they
    signed to do. Instead, they continued to suck the system, and decided to
    suck some more through this baseless claim. It is unfortunate our legal
    system sees a need to alter agreements between adults.

    • Rick

      While we are not given all the facts of the matter in this limited article, I doubt the internship they applied for was advertised as “Unpaid internships available involving extensive amounts of equipment moving and absolutely no potential for learning”.

      The advertisement they likely responded to was likely a little more glowing and they may have stuck it out hoping things would come a little more in line with what was advertised, only filing suit when they were certain they had been used. Additionally, if the work they performed was on location somewhere, walking prior to wrapping may have involved… walking home.

      Again, we have not been given sufficient information for passing judgement on these guys.

  • Lanthus Clark

    I think the ruling above is a good one, interns are meant to be interns (learning something) not free manual labour to save the corporation actually paying somebody to do their crappiest jobs that have no potential for learning anything at all.

    I wouldn’t mind interning for a handful of photographers that I respect and admire if I knew that at the end I was going to be enriched by the experience, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go and carry sandbags/mop floors/make tea for some mega rich corporation just because they are unethical enough not to give a damn about me.

  • simonjesterus

    First, is anyone forcing these interns to work for free (whatever they wind up doing)? Or are the making a choice to do so? This is simply government butting in again where it doesn’t belong. A job is a choice, no one is twisting these peoples arms, forcing them into slave labor.