I read this article the other day, and it really upset me. Supposedly, this guy accepted a free internship with Ed Hardy for three months. He was working more than 20 hours a week, and the team had little respect for his designs. After his internship, he found one of his t-shirt designs being sold for $179.00 at the Northridge Mall. Since his internship was free, he didn't reimbursed for his designs. One of his friends wrote this article, and suggested boycotting Ed Hardy.

He writes, "If you worked for Ed Hardy or any other company under the pretence of internship that was actually an unpaid job please pursue your legal rights and sue them. Internships have specific requirements please look them up. Just calling something an internship does not allow any company to have people work for them for free."

After I read this, I had to find out if it was true. Are unpaid internships illegal? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in order to qualify as an unpaid internship, no work can be performed that is of any benefit to the company. Some companies try to get around this by offering college credit, but it's still illegal. The main reason we don't see more lawsuits regarding unpaid internships is due to the fact that many people fear being blacklisted, as they undoubtedly need that reference for future work.

The U.S. Department of Labor has an outlined list of criteria that ALL must be met for an internship to be unpaid.

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;

2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;

3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded;

5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and

6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

From the list, #4 is what really struck me. I applied for an internship at Seattle Business Magazine this summer, and I had to turn it down because they wanted me to work more than 20 hours a week for free. How could they argue that writing articles featured in the publication were not of immediate advantage to the company? They would have been free articles! From my perspective, it didn't make sense to write a story for free when I could have pitched the same story as a freelancer for pay.

Seattle Business Magazine isn't the only publication that does this. Many publishing houses have unpaid internships. It's the shitty realization I stumbled upon when I was looking for jobs this summer. Just because people blog for free, freelance for bylines, and write columns in hopes that they'll generate enough traffic to see a paycheck -- I don't think that justifies why writers have to sell their talent for free. My talent is just as skilled and necessary as any. Perhaps I'm self-proclaimed, but I work hard on my posts. I take time out of my day interviewing designers, researching my topic, trying to get press passes and attending local shows. I'm proud to say that my blog will never become a feed of runway photography and footnotes. I like to delve into important topics surrounding fashion, ask challenging questions, and put high demands on editorial. I don't want to publish 100 meaningless posts with random Polyvores of clothes I can't afford, befriend everyone on Myspace, and start a Twitter account so that I can make a buck off my blog.

Even my boyfriend struggles with this in developing software. He was working on this app called, "Plumb," that reduces time spent manually moving windows on your desktop. He was hoping to sell the app for $10 per download, but people have this sense of entitlement to software; nobody wants to pay for it. The other day he asked me, "How come I never see commercials for new software?" I replied, "Because you don't have to convince people that it's attractive." That's when I realized the same thing goes for journalism. Many publications are leaving print and moving to online platforms because nobody wants to pay for information. I have to admit that I've had similar thoughts when scanning the magazines at the grocery check-out -- "Why buy a magazine full of recipes when I can them online for free?" However, I'd just like to make it clear that information is not free! I'm a writer, and my time is valuable.

It's come to the point where businesses think you want them more than they want you. My theory is, if an employer can't figure out how to put you to good enough use to make more than minimum wage off of your labor, is it really a company that you want to be interning for?


Capree said...

Great post! This is such a problem in almost every industry. Fortunately for me, my internship really was an internship - and when I actually worked i.e. assisted on paid shoots, I got paid too. Turns out that's rather rare.

Joelyne said...

that really upsets me too! i can't believe they didn't pay him anything for his work and then used his designs!!!!!!!!!

thanks for sharing this with us. i wonder if it's the same here in aus.


Leigh said...

How frustrating!! that is horrible, I would be in such tears. I am glad that he is taking a step and you also for getting the word out is the best thing to do.


Anonymous said...

lovely post and thanks for your comment <3

thischicksgotstyle said...

Wow, very interesting post!!
And thank you for your comment, you blog is really nice!


Darrah said...

Thank you! I thought it was interesting as well, so I decided to write about it.


People really take advantage of who is starting...it is bad...

Marian said...

Thank for your writing about this as a lot of companies are really blurring the line of what is acceptable or not! I think it was wrong for them to sell his design when it was only an internship. so if he was not getting paid, they should not have received any direct monetary benefit from his work as intern.
great post

Maverick Malone said...

Wow....good to know :)

Anonymous said...

Poor guy. Unfortunately, many interns are not treated like they would like to be treated!

LACY said...

this is a really informative and interesting post. Thanks for putting this out there and I am definitely going to look more into this.


Amelia said...

That's terrible! I agree with you completely. Too bad internships are what it takes to break into so many industries.

Anonymous said...

wow, it makes you think twice about getting internships with big name companies like that. definitely a thought-provoking article.
how did you ever come across it?

Anonymous said...

Shox 2:45

Shox BB4

JINX said...

i really enjoy your style and what you bring to the blogging world