Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Pay Or Not To Pay Interns

My name is intern image
The connotation of the word "intern" is now changing as it has gone from "free worker" to "paid temp employee" thanks to a class action lawsuit on behalf of 3,000 former unpaid interns that felt abused by the system.

Recently Warner Music Group became the largest music company to resolve litigation over its past internship program by agreeing to settle for an amount of $750,000.

Other similar lawsuits in film and television have ended in the same way, prompting all media companies to reevaluate their intern programs, which potentially means far fewer opportunities for those seeking the few internships that are available. The laws governing internships are different from state to state, but a precedent set in one tends to carry over to the others, which is what's happening here.

To be sure, this applies mostly to large corporations, but could possibly have a chilling affect on even smaller studios as well. While most interns are just too happy to have a job that allows them to learn from a pro and would never conceive of bringing an action against an employer for fear of what might happen to their career, just the threat of something like that happening can have a chilling effect on a potential employer.

I have a friend who owns an upscale but small studio that was sued by a former intern because he didn't get the promised studio downtime simply because the studio was busy with bookings. The studio owner won the case but it still cost him time and lawyer's fees. That person now runs a no-intern shop.

So paid internship is now a double-edged sword. It's nice to get paid for the work you put in, but the opportunities to learn will now be far more limited.

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