Former Intern Sues Magazine Publisher, Claiming She Was An Unpaid Full-Timer

Although students gain work experience and connections from internships, the professional world tends to get the better end of the deal, exploiting talented interns for free or low-pay labor. Federal law bars companies from treating interns as they would employees, but overworked students don’t often feel as though they’re in much of a position to blow the whistle if their mentors cross the line.

According to The New York Times, a former Harper’s Bazaar intern is blowing that whistle, suing Hearst Corporation for allegedly violating federal and state labor laws by asking her to work full-time with no pay. She and her lawyers want to get others in on the action, seeking class-action status and claiming to represent hundreds of former Hearts magazine interns.

The former intern says she worked between 40 and 55 hours a week from August to December last year. Hearst says it has yet to be served with a lawsuit and declined comment to the Times.

The U.S. Labor Department’s guidelines say internships must be for the educational benefit of the intern rather than a financial boost to the employer, and that they can’t displace regular employees. If the lawsuit is successful, it could scare corners-cutting suits out of taking advantage of just-happy-to-be-there students.

Former Intern Sues Hearst Over Unpaid Work and Hopes to Create a Class Action [The New York Times]

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  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Did she sign a contract for the internship? Well then she might be out of luck. Did the company break the contract? Maybe.. but that’s all up for interpretation.

    • Marlin says:

      A contract can’t break the law.

      i.e. sign this to sell yourself into the sex trade for 10 years.

      • DariusC says:

        It also isn’t valid if both parties do not fully understand the terms and conditions of the agreement. It can be reversed even after people sign, but only under very rare circumstances.

    • Vox Republica says:

      IANAL, but no contract can allow a company to violate extant laws, labor or otherwise.

    • GMFish says:

      …but that’s all up for interpretation.

      And that’s why we have jury trials.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      A contract that violates federal law becomes invalid, at least the parts that violate law.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        That’s true, but this is BIG TIME PUBLISHER who most likely has a scad of BIG TIME LAWYERS. Most likely the contract doesn’t violate the law, more like they asked her to do more than the contract stipulated. If she can PROVE that she has a case, but for now its just hearsay.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          All it takes is one manager who doesn’t understand what an intern is.

    • who? says:

      There are federal labor laws that govern what an intern can and can’t do. There’s not enough info in the article to tell if the law was violated. Working 40+ hours/week isn’t, in itself, a violation. But the gist of the law is that the internship has to provide more educational value to the intern than monetary value to the employer. If it’s done properly, an intern will do work that’s more interesting and varied than what they would typically do as an entry level employee. But when I’m interviewing college hires (in high tech, not in publishing), about 50% of the students that had internships spent the whole time doing menial tasks that didn’t teach them anything useful.

      • RandomHookup says:

        For an unpaid internship, the employer must “derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.” Otherwise, it should just be paid.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    I did an internship in college where I essentially worked full time with no pay. That was the whole idea: give the students a taste of work in the field. Now did usually 34-40 hours a week. If had been asked to work substantially more than that I might have been concerned. I should also note my coworkers kept similar schedules to what I had. The Editor worked more, obviously, but I never felt exploited or taken advantage of.

    • Don't Bother says:

      Same for me. I worked full time, 7 to 3: 30, for a semester in college. I was expected to do everything for my mentor, and he sat around doing nothing. But this was student-teaching, which is kind of the point of that experience.

      • RandomHookup says:

        It’s a little different when you are doing it for a school. Student-teaching isn’t really an internship in the same way.

        • Don't Bother says:

          Right, it is more considered a practicum instead of a internship. I’m not for employers taking advantage of interns, but them receiving the short end of the stick is part of the experience, isn’t it?

          • absherlock says:

            Can you explain the difference between a practicum and an internship? I looked it up but still don’t really understand…

            • Don't Bother says:

              I don’t think there’s much difference any more, as evidenced by this article, but I’ll take a crack at explaining.

              Internship– you are there to learn from someone. You do “practice” work, get acclimated to the environment of the workplace, and everything you produce is looked at but not necessarily used. You can do some menial grunt work like run copies and get your supervisor a latte`, but you’re if your work is not done, you’re just written up. No one is counting on your work for the machine to keep moving.

              Practicum– Usually grad students do these. They are what med students, social work students, and student-teachers do. You’re basically producing work that has to be used and are shadowing and taking over some of the responsibilities of your supervisor. At some point, you will be doing all of their work for them while they watch you.

              • absherlock says:

                Okay – so social work and teaching students would likely be covered under the non-profit/governmental agency exemption, but what about med students? Are they paid from their practicums? Or is that the same as their internship?

                • Don't Bother says:

                  I’m not sure if med students are paid or not. Usually med students do what is referred to as a “clinical” but I’m pretty sure that’s unpaid labor.

          • teamplur says:

            That’s the same attitude that has kept hazing alive in the military. No matter how strict the laws are, there’s always the attitude of “that’s part of the experience”

            • Don't Bother says:

              That’s interesting… I almost used the word “hazing.” I don’t think it’s right, but I know that’s how we see it as a society. It’s like “Yup, I had to do that crap, now I get to wear the badge of honor while I piss on you.”

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        People think interning is a racket, try student teaching. Music in particular, it’s the only time you are paying a college thousands of dollars to go to a school and work a full time job. You do literally everything while the actually teacher watches.

        That semester should cost you a tenth the cost.

        • Conformist138 says:

          Oh, I understand that. I wasn’t teaching anything, but studying photography. They required we complete an internship, but we had to pay for it like it was a full 4-credit class. They also wouldn’t tell you the requirements for the internship until you got the internship… So, since most photographers are individuals, very very few wanted to help us without an understanding of what was expected. Some got internships at huge places used to having interns like the Nike photo studio, but the students complained that they weren’t allowed anywhere near the actual studio. They spent days putting together office furniture.

          I never finished that degree, I was too angry at the school for basically condoning a racket that pushed free labor into large corporations while expecting me to foot the bill.

    • clippy2.0 says:

      The difference is this; is the internship for your benefit or the companies? Obviously if you are paired with a mentor, and they are simply helping you to do their daily duties, it’s for your benefit. If your “mentor” happens to be your boss, and your “peers” are other unpaid interns, yeah, that’s for the companies benefit, and illegal. There are some more specific guidelines as well, but that’s the basic gist of it. Interns cannot replace paid employees

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      An internship should be educational, not just an excuse for you to do all their workload.

      An internship isn’t educational if you’re jsut running spreadsheets and other busywork. Your mentor should be teaching you the ins and outs of that industry, get you involeved in meetings, etc. And you probably shouldn’t be working more than 40 hrs a week.

  3. akronharry says:

    I worked full time during my internship. That was part of it. What did she expect? A couple of hours a week where she got to dress pretty like on the t.v. shows that portrayed magazine corporations?

    I guess she means she could not handle a “normal” work week and therefore she may as well try to get some money out of it.

    Hope her name floats out there so she never gets a job in the field again.

    • Marlin says:

      “What did she expect?”

      Maybe for the company to not break the law?

      • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

        Well akronharry got exploited, so why should this woman stand up for herself w/o being blackballed in her industry?

        • akronharry says:

          No, I was not exploited.
          I learned how the organization works.
          I was not a cog on a wheel that learned only one function.
          Because of that experience, I am where I am today and doing all right.

          • Kate says:

            But you weren’t supposed to take the place of an employee and the company was not supposed to get economic value for what you did. All the company was supposed to do is train you – not use you as unpaid labor, which is what it sounds like they did.

            Why is that OK with you and more importantly why would expect everyone else to submit to being used in the same manner?

    • Don't Bother says:

      “by using the interns essentially to do the jobs of other workers and not providing a bona fide educational experience.”

      That’s the quote I found in the original article that may shed light on what she expected. My thoughts? She expected the company to allow her to get a foot in the door. I think they overworked her, and now aren’t going to consider her or any of the other interns for any sort of entry-level jobs (mostly because said jobs are being done by unpaid interns).

      Then again, aren’t all interns treated as slave labor? Isn’t that how it’s always been? Where’s the line between acceptable and unacceptable work loads for interns?

      • RandomHookup says:

        If you pay them, you can do (almost) whatever you want. But a business can only have unpaid interns if the work they do is almost purely education (and part of a program of some kind). A business can’t really throw a college kid on the reception desk unsupervised as part of an unpaid internship in web design.

        To qualify for the “unpaid” part, they really can’t be doing productive work (except as directly related to their training).

        • Don't Bother says:

          That makes sense. If she was producing content they used in their magazine without compensation, I would see how that would tick her off (especially if she isn’t given any credit). It seems to me that she was doing work that a regular employee was doing because they didn’t actually want to hire anyone to do those things. That’s where the dishonesty comes in.

          • absherlock says:

            So the “work” an intern does is just (and I’m not using the term derogatorily, it’s just how my mind’s processing it) “practice work” that doesn’t take the place of “real work” that would otherwise be done by another employee?

            So in the plaintiff’s case, she could “coordinate pickups and deliveries of fashion samples between Harper‚Äôs Bazaar and fashion vendors and showrooms and assign other unpaid interns to help carry out the pickups and deliveries” so long as there was another paid employee who was doing the same thing?

            • Don't Bother says:

              No, what I’m saying is this. They have to have someone do that work for them. Instead of hiring a person, whose job would be the fashion sample coordinator (or whatever), they stick interns with the job. It makes it so the magazine can save money by not paying someone for legit work. In your scenario, as I understand it, she’d still be taking the place of someone who should be paid to do that service. Instead, she should assist in those things, watching the real employee do their work. But she shouldn’t be taking the place of an paid employee .

              It would be like if

            • RandomHookup says:

              She probably couldn’t have done any of that other than as an exercise on how to do that (under supervision). If there were a paid employee beside her doing exactly the same thing, then it demonstrates how she is really doing the work of an employee.

              • absherlock says:

                I’m sorry – I should have added “in it’s entirety” to “another paid employee who was doing the same thing” – thereby making any work she did superfluous and not a benefit to the company. My bad.

      • who? says:

        According to federal labor law, an unpaid internship has to provide an educational experience, not just be work that a paid employee should be doing. That’s the whole point. Otherwise, it’s unpaid labor, and she can (and should) sue.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Your bias is showing?

      Without knowing details, that’s a pretty bold attitude to just assume she’s at fault.

      • rushevents says:

        How about yours? You only have her side of the story and you just know she’s innocent.

        She just has a lawyer friend who smells money from a co-employment action – that’s all.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Assumptions aplenty!

          I only HAVE one side of the story – I have to take the story as it stands, otherwise every conclusion will be biased and baseless. I haven’t “taken her side,” I’m simply looking at the story only within the confines of information I have, and not coming up with the other sides’ story myself.

          It’s pointless to come up with hypotheticals to completely dismiss the story and then move on – you’re basically saying you’ve given up and don’t care.

  4. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    In 1998-1999 I was an intern for a local government’s I.T. department and they paid me $8.20 an hour. Myself and the other interns were a cheap source of labor, and they sent us to fix the easy or annoying problems the full timers didn’t want to deal with. A lot of interns would later became full time regular employees for the I.T. department. We got a little money and a great resume builder, and they got cheap labor to deal with mundane problems or annoying people that nobody else wanted to deal with. It was a fantastic experience for me and a Win / Win.

    That said, I’m a little worried that private companies or even public employers could hire unpaid “interns” instead of regular employees. When the market is bad, people will do anything, even to just have something to put on a resume. I’m afraid they could be taken advantage of. Just imagine if Wal-Mart started to have “retail management” internships that also involved considerable time spent stocking shelves, pushing carts, and running cash registers.

    • FatLynn says:

      That’s exactly what is happening right now. The number of unpaid interns in the US is at a peak.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I think that’s what’s at issue here. It’s not that she was working a full-time unpaid internship – it’s that she was being used as free labor in place of hiring a low paid temp office worker – by a company that could certainly afford to pay and is taking advantage of the labor market for young graduates. If you’re using your interns for administrative work, employers at least need to take the time to develop opportunities for them to network, shadow other employees, sit in on meetings, be taught the basics of the business, and learn softwares that are important.

  5. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Why do the names “Bill and Monica” come to mind?

    • Major Tom Coming Home says:

      Right on!!! Monica went to lengths for her internship that other people only joke about. “Who do I have to……to get a good internship around here?”

  6. absherlock says:

    Did she get college credits? If so, she may have been “unpaid” but she wasn’t uncompensated.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Doesn’t matter. Even if you get credit for an unpaid internship (and that’s what the government prefers), you can’t do regular work — only training. If they want an employee, then they need to pay.

      • absherlock says:

        I was never an intern but I know the unpaid student teachers at my kids’ schools do lesson plans, run classes (under supervision) and grade tests. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as “regular work” as pertains to the teaching profession.

        • RandomHookup says:

          But it’s supervised and reviewed — it’s not used as a substitute for a teacher. Plus, schools are generally nonprofits and most of the rules don’t apply to them.

          • absherlock says:

            Gotcha. For the purposes of exclusion, I’d probably consider a school as a “governmental agency” rather than a “non-profit” (at least a public school), but I understand. Thanks.

            • Don't Bother says:

              There are times where student-teachers are abused. At some points, they are treated as substitutes.

              Also, RandomHookup is right, all student-teachers are supposed to be supervised at all times. I appreciated when my teachers ducked out of the room and let me be alone. But the rules are there so that normal teachers can’t take personal days and leave the student-teacher alone doing the work. Even when my teachers were gone during the time, a sub had to watch me teach.

              • FatLynn says:

                When a good teacher mentors a student teacher, he/she often does more work than he/she would without the student teacher.

  7. ElleAnn says:

    I start a full-time permanent job in my field next week, but my last position was called an “Internship.” I wasn’t a student and had been out of grad school for 2 years. I was paid $10 an hour to collect and analyze data. Turns out that I was more qualified and knowledgable about the work I was doing than the people above me, so I was given pretty much free reign to get things done with almost no supervision or oversight (and definitely no intentional “educational” component). At the end I got a lot of accolades for doing a good job…. a job that should have paid $20 an hour. I’m pretty sure that they classified the position as an internship so that I wouldn’t be qualified to get unemployment at the end. Still, I’m not going to sue. I needed work and $10 an hour was better than nothing.

    • unpolloloco says:

      Also, you can’t. You hired on with the assumption that it was 1) underpaid, and 2) temporary. This person’s issue is that she wasn’t paid at all, which is a violation of federal law if she was doing regular employee work.

  8. rpm773 says:

    Look, the idea behind the internship is get people used to a life of hard work, menial tasks, and long hours with very little or no pay. A life where one prays that the one escape – death – comes quickly and painlessly

    I don’t see how the arrangement between this woman and the magazine violated the spirit of that.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The spirit, fine… but the law is pretty clear on the use of *unpaid* interns. If they do regular work, they qualify to be paid, even if it’s been industry practice to use them for everything without pay.

    • dolemite says:

      No, that is not the purpose of an internship. It’s to give them a glimpse into the workings of the industry, to teach them a few useful things, etc. Not to make them a full time 50 hour a week employee with no pay. Imagine if all companies did this? Wonder why the unemployment rate is 8.5% while company profits are soaring?

  9. RandomHookup says:

    This is pretty common in the media industry. Magazines, newspapers, radio stations will get interns to come in and do a bunch of real work without paying them. The students either don’t know it’s not right or aren’t going to make waves. They view the experience as “worth it” or accept it’s needed to get a foot in the door.

    Ultimately, for it to be an unpaid internship, the intern must be working for a government agency or a nonprofit (ultimately, a volunteer) or must not do “productive work” — meaning that the work should be educational or part of a training. So, an unpaid intern could create work as part of training, but it should only be accidental if it were to be used.

    I used to work in recruiting for a media company and we had the conversations about how this wasn’t right and were advised by attorneys it was safer to pay our interns. But the line of folks willing to do it for free was too long and management figured we weren’t likely to get in much trouble.

  10. SmokeyBacon says:

    I am confused – they hired her as an intern and asked to do the work of an intern – where is the problem? I must be out of touch or something because isn’t the whole point of an internship that it is unpaid, and it is just the lucky few who get the rare paid internship (with very low pay in that case)?

    • RandomHookup says:

      While you might have seen this, there is a difference in labor laws between paid & unpaid internships. How it works in real life, well, that’s another matter…

      Paid interns: you can ask them to do just about anything

      Unpaid interns: a business (vice nonprofit or government) can only use an intern to do activities that are training in nature. For example, you can ask an accounting intern to review the financial statements and to review accounts payable and maybe prepare some under supervision. When you ask that intern to do an entire payroll check run (something someone else would usually be paid to do), then you are stepping over the line. Ultimately, for an *unpaid* intern, any “real work” produced should be accidental.

      Really, for a business, you are better off just paying someone rather than having to deal with the issues that come from an unpaid intern.

  11. ajv915 says:

    Well if we are going by the word of the law as it is written.

    “The lawsuit pointed to guidelines from the United States Labor Department, which state that unpaid internships are only lawful in the context of an educational training program, when the interns do not displace regular employees and the employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern‚Äôs work. “

    If the company can’t benefit from the work, then what is the point of taking on an intern?

    • Don't Bother says:

      The hiring process becomes way easier if you get a sneak peek at those who are going to be applying. There may be someone who has a fabulous GPA, has all the right extracurricular activities, but once you see her/her in action, you find out she’s difficult (and just a royal bitch/putz to everyone).

    • LadyTL says:

      To essentially train someone to work with your company. The unpaid part is to find out if they would work well with your company before losing money on it.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The reality is that the government would prefer you pay people who do actual work.

      Some companies do have unpaid interns as part of a program that exposes them to certain kinds of work and they hope those folks come to work for them or at least continue in the field. And some just do it as a public service … having someone come in 5 hours a week to learn how to do web development may be a good way to give back to the school or community.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Why does anyone do anything that does not directly benefit them?

    • ajv915 says:

      yes, I suppose you all are right.

      Having re-read the main article it says that she was a graduate at the time of employment.

      According to the lawsuit, Ms. Wang, who graduated from Ohio State University in 2010, was an intern at Harper’s Bazaar from August 2011 to December 2011

      In this context yes. She is absolutely correct in saying she was exploited, but only on the basis that she should have never been hired to work for them. It should not be possible to take an intern position when you are not an enrolled student. She was exploited but also exploited the internship program. Neither side seems right here.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Most big magazine interns are already graduated (it’s a huge racket) and it is *possible* to do an internship for post-grads, but it has to be educational in nature and not for the advantage of the employer.

      • justhypatia says:

        She was working through September to December; Harper’s was in no way looking for a current student. Like many companies they purposefully took advantage of a young graduate who didn’t know any better for their own financial benefit.

        Personally I hope she gets a huge settlement because this internship crap is getting out of hand.

    • dolemite says:

      It used to be…not everything was about money. An internship is to help students get a feel for real world experience and learn a few things. Not to work 50 hours a week doing a job a paid employee should do.

    • who? says:

      Two reasons to take on an intern:

      1) You actually want to do something good in the world.
      2) An internship is typically an audition for employment at the company.

      I work for a company that has a lot of interns. Generally, it’s mostly a value neutral proposition. The amount of work we get out of them almost offsets the amount of work we put into working with them. We also get to see how the interns perform over a few months time, and take our pick of the best of them for real jobs when they graduate. Typically the interns who we end up hiring will be hired at a higher salary level than other college grads who come in off the street, because we know that they’re capable of doing the job.

      That said, about 50% of the recent college grads that I interview who had internships at another company spent their entire time doing menial work that didn’t really benefit them at all.

  12. Tim says:

    I did four internships in college, three were unpaid. Only one of the unpaid ones was full-time though.

    Honestly, it would have been nice to get paid, but then the newspapers I worked for probably wouldn’t have had the internships in the first place. Then I would have had no experience when I got out of college, and I’d have had a hell of a time getting a job (especially since it was 2008).

    And yes, I fully admit that I could only do unpaid internships because my parents had the means to support me while I did them. Unfair to those who can’t afford that? Probably.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Having worked for a newspaper/magazine company, I had an editor remark to me that only the well-heeled are ending up in journalism because 1) all the internships are unpaid and 2) the pay coming out of school is lousy (plus there is a “big name school” bias, at least in the bigger markets).

  13. LadyTL says:

    Look, unpaid internships are never meant to be a 9-5 regular job. Unless you were learning something industry specific, congrats you were exploited! If you spent your “internship” doing real work without supervision or training you weren’t in an internship, you were working a job without pay. Internships are meant to be a class at a workplace. It’s even specified so in the labor law. Good on this woman for not following the sheep who allowed themselves to be exploited.

    As a side note, yes I did a 9 to 5 internship but I did no real work. I did learn though about server administration and graphic design and a few other techie things. That was the point.

  14. tungstencoil says:

    I see intern abuse a lot; I’m in the tech/software industry. Especially in small companies and start-ups, there’s this idea that they can get unpaid interns to do a lot of the grunt work.

    Unfortunately, it seems to work – fodder in the form of computer science or marketing majors cycle through, not realizing it’s FREAKING ILLEGAL AND UNETHICAL for them to do “real” work unless they’re paid. I cringe whenever I hear about it.

    We use interns at work here, and we pay them a fair wage – around $20/hour for engineer interns. They end up making simple yet repetitive code refactors or updating documentation… and they learn a lot. We benefit, they learn and get paid.

    Unpaid interns – by law and by ethos – should not be doing real work.

  15. DanKelley98 says:

    Personally, I would have taken full advantage of that opportunity to get my foot in the door, though at some point you’d have to end the “free” part of the relationship.

    That said…the story reads: “by asking her to work full-time with no pay.”

    She could have just said no and walked away. End of story.

    • Spaghettius! says:

      How delightfully vague and ideal you sound. But let’s say you really want to work in this field, let’s say you need a good review from your supervisors so they can recommend you to future employers, let’s say no one in the field is hiring (no. one.) and you really want to stand out among the applicants, you want to build connections and network, and maybe you don’t realize while you’re interning that you’re being used as free labor because this is your first internship.
      Basically, let’s say you’re a 19 year old college student.

  16. Jaxtrax says:

    I was a manager for an AT&T call center. Just before I quit they were so excited to start getting unpaid interns. This was not for educational purposes and not for training purposes. These poor saps were set into management doing the same work as me with no pay. About a year after I quit they changed structure and laid a bunch of people off. The still unpaid interns Aka managers where the first to go. Just before the contract said they were to start as actual employees. AT&T then rolled in a new larger batch of unpaid interns/managers. This idea might have started as way to educate. However it is clearly being abused by large corporations. I now
    work for a great small business as the general sales manager and we make sure that our employees are treated with respect and are paid a proper living wage.

  17. hansolo247 says:

    I worked full-time in my internship…though it was for $20 an hour, 13 years ago.

  18. some.nerd says:

    Interns exploited by a print publication?? SHOCKING!
    In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.
    (I say this with print/web editorial experience under my belt.)

    • RandomHookup says:

      Agreed. What is shocking is that someone is willing to risk her name and reputation by suing. People in the industry have always counted on the visibility and access (and swag) coupled with the high demand for internships to keep unpaid interns in line.

    • who? says:

      What’s even more shocking is that there’s someone out there that still thinks there are any entry level jobs available at a print publication.

      • some.nerd says:

        LOL… that was a good one. I certainly found that out pretty quickly! Full-time editorial staff is the 1% of the journalism world.

  19. Snowblind says:

    “If the lawsuit is successful, it could scare corners-cutting suits out of taking advantage of just-happy-to-be-there students.”

    More likely it will scare them into not taking interns at all.

  20. rushevents says:

    Ah.. the joys of co-employment. Oh and now she’s going to ruin it for all who would give their right arm to get their foot in the door and work for Hearst.

    “I had to work full time for 3 whole months… Waah!!!!!! All I got was was a new skill to market myself on a resume for a real job later… THAT”S NOT FAIR!!! Waaaaaah!

    Someone please slap this girl.

    • Spaghettius! says:

      I know some terrific people who were cycled through a bunch of Hearst magazines as interns and ultimately did not get hired by any of them. Because there are no jobs. None of them were made to work full time, though, only a few days a week, and for the most part found the internships educational.

    • Antigone says:

      These magazines hire hardly anyone because all the entry level tasks are done by unpaid interns. This is how they operate. It is abusive, and illegal.

  21. kmz says:

    I was quite happy to work fulltime as an intern for IBM back in the day. I don’t know why she’s complaining…

    Oh wait, I know, I was paid $18/hr for my work, I wasn’t exploited for unpaid labor by Hearst.

  22. Spaghettius! says:

    Former Hearst intern here- I interned at one of their magazines, unpaid, a few years ago and it was a really fun experience. It was a combination of menial tasks (reading mail, tracking product sample orders and returns), research, writing little blurbs for the magazine, transcribing taped interviews and fun tasks like playing with waffle batter to find out which waffle maker makes the fluffiest breakfast treats. Seriously. I loved it. The editors and assistant editors worked their butts off, and sometimes interns stayed late, but we weren’t pressured to, and we sometimes got to take home some neat stuff. At the end of our internship, we completed an exit interview and were given some resources if we wanted to get into the industry. Sadly, this was the year the industry started to fall really hard, so there was a lot of “Sorry, we like you but we can’t hire you, good luck”
    That said, it was a proper internship: we did some of the work the editors do, saw how the staff of the magazine was structured, and were present at decision-making meetings. The internship gave us a feel for what it’s like to work there. But we were treated like competent “helpers” and definitely NOT employees. I worked 15 hours a week, wrote a detailed essay about it, and got college credit.
    That said, I am not surprised that even a corporation as large and well established as Hearst is becoming dependant on interns to do real work; I watched the magazine staff get decimated in the lay-offs, so obviously the work load got really heavy for everyone else, and that means more assistant will delegate their resposibilities to interns. Legally, there is not enough protection and oversight, so you’ll get some major violations in some places. To everyone saying “this intern wanted to find out what the job was like so she can’t complain about the experience she got because they made her work” – please realize that there is a BIG difference between an educational experience and having random work that someone would normally be paid for dumped off on you because you’re eager and naive.

  23. Heather says:

    My internship during the last semester of college in 2008 was amazing. I worked full time (7-4, 9-5, 3-11 depending on the week) and received a (surprise) 500$ honorarium a the end.
    We thought we were just going to be fetching coffee, we didn’t really know what to expect…. but the experience was so valuable. It was for a wire service (I was studying journalism) and I got to interview people, write stories, attend a press conference (the reporter was sick) and got my work with a byline published in several national newspapers – clippings which are still very valuable to me as a freelancer.
    I think five other classmates were interning there as well, out of 30 total classmates… I heard horrible things about some of my friends’ internships, where they did actually just fetch coffee.
    But 40 hours a week is to be expected, is it not? Even 55, which I worked when we rotated working weekends.

  24. exconsumer says:

    Ugh. Hate the idea of unpaid ‘internships’ in general.

    Hearst magazine is a for profit business, and there are scads of employees and executives and shareholders that benefit from those profits. The poor and less well-off should not be subsidizing those profits with their labor.

  25. TeriLynn says:

    I worked at a small-town newspaper, and right after I quit they started laying off all of the writers and most of the editors. They replaced them all with interns. Seriously, ALL the writers were interns, and there was one editor. There’s no way you can tell me that they were being trained because there was nobody to train them. That’s just exploitation, and this woman’s experience sounds like it could be pretty similar.

  26. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    God forbid that a person would volunteer to work for free in exchange for valuable real-world job experience and then be allowed to do a real-world job! Who wants to have THAT on a resume? After all, it’s much better to have “I sued the company that trained me because I wasn’t the only one to benefit” as a job qualification.

    I bet she has a massive student loan debt for a worthless degree that she expects someone else to pay for too.

    • RandomHookup says:

      It’s a Catch-22, but for-profit companies shouldn’t be putting people to work for free, valuable experience or not. If it’s worth it to the company (and Hearst is a billion dollar private company), then it’s worth paying minimum wage.

  27. Taylor Rolyat says:

    This girl (who clearly must be closer to the 1% than the 99% if she’s got the time and money to spend on a lawyer) is going about her internship all the wrong way. Does she not understand that all of her work is good leverage to get a job, or at least an interview? As someone who has done several internships where I constantly wondered why they “hired” me in the first place due to a lack of assignments, she ought to market herself to other employers in a public fash- oh, wait…she might be an evil genius, albeit a spoiled one

    • RandomHookup says:

      Lawyers usually work these kinds of cases on contingency, especially if they see the opportunity for a big class action. I’m guessing she has decided to not go into media after this experience.

  28. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    “Devil Wears Prada” much?

  29. exconsumer says:

    Rule of humanity: When someone agrees to give you something for free, under the pretense that they might get something of value . . . they will always hate it when they don’t get the thing of value. Always.

  30. Antigone says:

    It’s really about time that the Department of Labor crack down on companies that are abusing unpaid internships (which pretty much all of them are). In the magazine industry, it is par for the course that they need never hire clerical workers because they can find plenty of unpaid intern suckers to do that work for free, in the desperate hope that they may be hired. Which of course, will never happen, because the unpaid interns each semester grossly outnumber paid employees, much less openings.