Here are a few suggestions of what to do to the fight the tendency of employers not to pay their interns.
Say it out loud
If you turn down an internship because it is unpaid, say so to the employer. If they don’t know that the salary is an issue, they might never realize it. If you’re (really) lucky, they might then offer to pay you. If they don’t, at least you will have sent the right message.
Do not apply on unfair internships
Start by looking for proper jobs and paid positions. There are more than you might think. There’s plenty of energy to be poured in applications for paid jobs. If you start by looking for unfair internships, you risk finding one.
Add language from the Fair Labour and Standard Act
If you take an unpaid internship that’s actually legal, then make sure that your contract mentions the six rules of the FSLA. This will make sure that you receive proper supervision and that you are not used as free labor.
Tell employers even if you don’t apply
When you find an interesting internship that is unpaid, write to the employer to tell them that you would be pleased to apply if the job was paid. You can even attach your CV to show them what great people they’re missing on.
Report your employer
In the USA, by calling your local Department of Labor, you can report your employer and keeping your privacy at the same time. You answer a few questions and they take care of the rest. Read the experience of an intern here and here.
Report offers for unfair internships
A fun way to discourage unfair internships is to flag the Craigslist postings that offer them. They are illegal after all.
Tell your story
Have you had a good/bad experience that’s worth sharing? Write us and we’ll publish it on this blog. Noteworthy themes are: “I had the nerves to ask for a fair salary and got it”, “I complained about the menial tasks of my credited internship and it all changed”, etc. You can also go on site specialized to receive your reviews such as InternshipRatings.com or YouIntern.com.
See five more suggestions from Schneider & Rubin, a law firm that deals with unfair internships.
Pay your interns
It’s that simple. Offer them a good salary, the equivalent of an entry-level position.
If you make it clear in your communications that all jobs at your organization are paid, you will gain the respect of potential employees and more. Your peers will hear and read your statement, forcing them to reflect upon their own policies.