Unpaid internships in jeopardy after FOX Searchlight ruling - KMSP-TV

Why unpaid internships are in jeopardy

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The unpaid internship is often times the difference between graduating and finding a job right away or waiting on the sidelines for a while before getting that first job.

But, after a court ruling out Thursday, some are asking if the days of the unpaid internship are dead.

A federal judge ruled this week that FOX Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the movie "Black Swan."

The judge said they performed the same work as paid employees.

This case may lead some companies to rethink their internship program and whether it's worth the risk to keep hiring interns without pay.

Critics claim unpaid internships exploit young workers and drive down wages. Employers say they invest money in the programs and offer mentoring similar to vocational programs.

The biggest problem in the FOX Searchlight situation is that they were having their interns do the work that a paid employee would be doing, not just the menial tasks they thought they would be doing.

Department of Labor guidelines for determining whether an internship must be paid, includes stipulations that the internship be similar to what one would receive in an educational environment; that the internship be closely supervised; and that the intern not displace a paid worker.

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