How to report an unfair internship

September 30, 2007

If you’re here because you think you’ve got an unfair internship yourself, you’ll be happy to know that you can report it to the authorities anonymously enough.

This blogger has taken the time to go through the whole process. It took him a certain time to find out, for which we are grateful, meaning that you can take the fast lane in following his steps.

  1. Try to determine if your internship is truly an unfair internship. Compare your internship program to what the law (the federal Fair Labor Standards Act) says. This article is a great guide.
  2. Find your local [Department of Labour] office. You can find your state’s DOL website here http://www.dol.gov/esa/contacts/state_of.htm but you ultimately need to contact your local office, which might be a city or county office.
  3. Call them and let them know why you think your internship might be illegal.

In a different post, he details how the process went. It’s quite informative. You may be reassured to read that “They only get your contact info if they need to contact you. You will not be mentioned in the investigation in any way and your privacy is protected.”

If you’re an employer, you may be interested to know that your interns can report you of they are treated unfairly. As the blogger says: “One of the things they will do is to give a surprise visit to the company in question.” It keeps you honest.

So that’s for the United States. Anybody knows how to report an unfair internship in another country?


Intelligent Life

September 9, 2007

Hurrah! The Economist (UK) has noticed the issue and they side with this blog:

“Although the “intern” label is sometimes attached to jobs in order to pay less than the minimum wage (which guarantees £5.35 per hour, or £4.45 for those aged 18 to 21), there is no such exception in law unless the stint is part of an educational course (which most are not). Yet the situation has gone unchallenged, partly because it is so widespread. MPs are unlikely to press for better enforcement, given that they themselves have been enthusiastic users of unpaid researchers. Many newspapers are in no position to kick up a fuss.”

This is the most mainstream mention of the problem since the op-ed in the NewYork Times last summer and the article in the Christian Science Monitor in May. It may be a sign that the topic is picking up and that it will soon get the attention it deserves. Or maybe not, as the last sentence of the quote above suggests.

The article suggests that unfair internships may be on the rise in the UK, but also reports on some interesting initiatives such as the Labour Party forbidding unfair internships and Oxford University calling employers who offer unfair internships to ask them to justify themselves. I wish we could have a transcript of one of those phone conversations.