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We recently spoke with Stephen Marche, who told us that in 1980, only 3 percent of college grads had done an unpaid internship and now virtually every college student has done some form of unpaid labor. And Marche said this intern system gives a leg up to kids who can afford to work for free, while cutting out real paying jobs. In fact, former interns at Fox Search Light are suing saying they were doing the work of full time employees without the pay or benefits.
Ben Weitzenkorn had a similar experience working at the New York Observer. Weitzenkorn worked as an unpaid intern, and wrote a number of articles that he did not get paid for. He says that though he would not sue the Observer, his work clearly violated the law.
The Department of Labor has specific rules about unpaid interns: Internships must be similar to training that would be given in an educational environment, the internship must benefit the intern, the employer must not derive immediate advantage from the intern’s work and the intern must not displace regular employees.