The NYT reminds us that just because it’s common practice, doesn’t mean it’s legal:
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.
Unpaid internships are foot-in-the-door gigs for screenwriters in Hollywood. I wrote free coverage for a small production company during my first year of film school, which led to a paid job at a studio.
Was I breaking the law? I guess.
But I wonder if it’s somewhat defensible as apprenticeship. Writing coverage is a skill you have to learn. I got better at it, and the two or three months I read for the company were genuinely educational, with feedback and evaluation.
But if I had been stuffing envelopes? Yeah. That’s a minimum wage job that should be treated like one.