The first sign of the internship apocalypse has arrived, and it’s wearing a super-trendy outfit. Anthropologie, the ultra-hip and uber-expensive retail clothing store, is now offering “internships” – basically hiring salespeople who they won’t have to pay. That’s right – they’re filling jobs with hardworking, aspiring sales personnel, and they’re not paying them a penny.
While this practice is reprehensible, it isn’t likely to end anytime soon.
For the unemployed recent college graduate, right now is a great time to get a job earning nothing in the profession of your choice. Lots of people, especially at entry level, are out of work and willing to do anything to get a potential foot in the door. Many organizations have taken advantage of this to get free labor. A recent New York Times article highlighted a lawsuit brought against the Hearst Corporation by a young woman claiming that her unpaid internship violated labor laws. While this story was about the fashion industry, the thread holds true across virtually every profession.
For employers, while it may look very tempting to dip your hand into the candy jar of free labor, it’s illegal not to pay your workers. Sure, you might not get sued, but it’s illegal for a reason – it’s just wrong. The rules regarding what constitutes an intern are very tightly defined.
And frankly, in a world where every corporate misstep has the potential to be broadcast instantly around the world, do you really want to tick off a young, connected person with time on their hands?