As Unpaid Internships Soar in Down Economy, First U.S. Law Firm Exclusively Dedicated to Unpaid Interns Launches
Online PR News – 03-February-2012 – – S. Orange, N.J., Jan. 31, 2012 –With the severe economic downturn and record-high unemployment of recent years, the number of unpaid interns in the job market has increased dramatically as employers seek to increase productivity while decreasing costs. But are these unpaid internships legal? As it turns out, many of them are not. Recognizing the extensive need for legal representation in this area, the newly-launched law firm of Schneider & Rubin, LLC, has become the first law firm in the United States exclusively focused on the issue of internship law.
While unpaid internships may have begun as a tool used by young people to gain the “real world” training one couldn’t receive from a formal education, today, they have become something else entirely.
Many unpaid internships have become nothing more than an employer’s ticket to a self-regenerating pool of free labor, enabling many businesses to increase profits by capitalizing on high levels of unemployment and desperation, particularly amongst young college students and graduates. Internships have provided for-profit employers an extremely cost effective alternative to hiring employees. It is estimated that in 2010, there were over 500,000 unpaid internships in the U.S., at a savings to businesses of over $2 billion annually. The cost savings businesses achieve through their use of unpaid interns continues to persist, even as debt from student loans in recent years overcame credit card debt as the number one source of debt in the US, making today’s graduates among the poorest members of society.
Alarmingly, individuals who accept these internships are also finding that by being labeled “unpaid interns,” they are often excluded from the legal protections afforded to all other employees, such as sexual harassment laws, leaving them susceptible to serious abuses with no recourse.
Under federal labor laws, all employees must be paid at least the minimum wage, with limited exception. While the Department of Labor has explained that there are circumstances under which an internship in the for-profit private sector may be unpaid, those circumstances are strictly limited to where an internship program meets a number of stringent criteria. Unfortunately, many of today’s unpaid internships, more focused on extracting free work from an intern than on providing training, utterly fail to meet that standard. An employer’s failure to pay at least minimum wage for an internship that does not meet the legal standard of an unpaid internship entitles the intern to back-pay, plus an equal amount in damages, in addition to all attorney’s fees and costs.
The law firm of Schneider & Rubin, LLC, which practices in New York and New Jersey, hopes to be a key resource in addressing and redressing the widespread exploitation of interns that has become so prevalent in recent years.
About the Firm
Lorin Schneider and Yoni Rubin, the co-founders of Schneider & Rubin, LLC, know the challenges that interns face. Being of the “millennial” generation themselves, and having started down their professional paths at the very beginning of the economic downturn, Lorin and Yoni have personally dealt with the difficulty of launching and establishing careers in the current down economy. Like most people of this generation, both attorneys had at some point been unpaid interns (before becoming aware of their potential legal shortcomings), as have many of their friends and colleagues unfortunate enough to enter the workforce at a time of such bleak prospects and fierce competition. We are well aware that the pressure on interns to give up their right to pay, in exchange for “experience” and a promised “competitive edge,” can be intense.
However, interns should not be dissuaded. The law protects and promises compensation to illegally unpaid interns. Where interns have done or are currently doing unpaid internships, the experience is already theirs. Their legal right to compensation is theirs also, even if relatively few know it.
Our mission is to spread the awareness that illegally unpaid interns don’t have to relinquish their legal right to be paid for their work, and to advocate for those who have been illegally unpaid in recovering the compensation to which they are entitled under the law. Unpaid interns who wish to learn more about their legal options can contact the attorneys of Schneider & Rubin, LLC by phone at 973-309-7080, or through our website, at www.InternLaw.com.
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