Interns and internships have been getting a lot of attention this year. There were two major law suits this year filed by interns against major companies (Hearst and Fox Searchlight Pictures,) Both of these cases brought a lot of attention to the plight of interns and it seemed like they could be game changers for the treatment of interns, but according to new jobs data things aren’t changing anytime soon. Because the job market is so bad, more and more young men and women will be accepting these unpaid internships.
Friday’s jobs report showed, job growth is weak, and the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was only 13.2% in April. The jobless rate for college graduates age 24 and under has risen to 9.4 % the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1985 .This means more young men and women will continue to accept internships that may not really teach them anything and they may do this three after they graduate. For example, on the new HBO show Girls (pictured above,) the main character has been an intern for two years at a publishing company. “A few years ago you hardly heard about college graduates taking unpaid internships,” Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president at the Economic Policy Institute who has done several studies on interns, told MSNBC. “But now I’ve even heard of people taking unpaid internships after graduating from Ivy League schools.” Some internships can be fabulous and really give a person right out of college exposure to the industry they want to be in and skills that will help them get a good job. But a lot of these times, even when these internships are at impressive companies, these jobs can be absolutely thankless. From menial tasks, to excruciatingly long hours and did we mention no pay?
But despite these lawsuits which were fighting against these things, there isn’t much that can be done. According to MSNBC:
“The Labor Department says that if employers do not want to pay their interns, the internships must resemble vocational education, the interns must work under close supervision, their work cannot be used as a substitute for regular employees and their work cannot be of immediate benefit to the employer. But in practice, there is little to stop employers from exploiting interns. The Labor Department rarely cracks down on offenders, saying that it has limited resources and that unpaid interns are loath to file complaints for fear of jeopardizing any future job search.”
But at the same time, in this lousy a job market, can anyone really complain? Xuedan Wang filed a law suit against Heart surfaced earlier this year. Hearst Corporation owes wages to her and others who interned at Harper’s Bazaar and other magazines since February of 2006, she claims. The class action suit says Hearst, whose publications include Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, violated federal and New York state minimum wage, overtime and record keeping laws. It seeks millions in compensation for interns across the country and for a subset of people who worked in New York. According to reporter Jeff Roberts, “in the case of Hearst, its practices may be no better or worse than the dozens of other companies that use interns. The publisher may simply have had the bad luck to have become a test case for the legal parameters of America’s internship economy.”
Wang was the Head Accessories Intern at Harper’s Bazaar and said she interned at the magazine for four months until December, working 40 to 55 hours a week. It’s terrible to have a lousy job, especially if it is your first but sometimes it may be better to just suck it up for the sake of your career. Wang has said that her career dream was to run Bazaar someday. That will probably not be happening no matter what the outcome of the suit is. And she will probably not get a job at any other magazine either.