It's been a good month for those fighting the scourge of unpaid quote-unquote "internships," which are too often simply part-time or full-time jobs in disguise. First, NBCUniversal agreed to settle with a group of former unpaid interns for Saturday Night Live, who sued as a class for labor law and wage violations. Now this week comes news that Conde Naste, publishing empire, has also decided to settle, to the tune of 5.8 million, the class action suit brought against it by its own former interns. The Conde Nast settlement is perhaps a bit more expected: the company appears to have known it had entered into some dangerous waters in its internship practices, and decided to end the program entirely this past summer.
Since the economic crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession, we've seen a significant increase in the number of lawsuits filed by unpaid interns, alleging labor violations. As this Forbes article details, it isn't necessarily that the amount of unpaid internships has increased - these have been with us since the early 1990s. Rather, the Great Recession has significantly decreased the likelihood of obtaining a full-time position from an unpaid internship. ("As for unpaid internships, students who have them are today hardly more likely to get a job offer [37 percent] than those who have no internship at all [35 percent].") Additionally, graduates unable to find work are now being pulled into the mix, working for free and not even earning academic credit for that work.