Everyone who’s gone job hunting only to be confronted with a wave of unpaid internships that seem to require you to do work that you usually get, y’know, paid for, knows that internships are bullshit. But who’s gonna listen to you, or for that matter, do anything about it? Meet Judge William H. Pauley III, of the federal district court of Manhattan, who just handed down a ruling that sided with two interns who claimed they should have been paid for their work, and could impact the use of unpaid internships across the media world.
The suit was brought by two unpaid interns who worked for Fox Searchlight on Black Swan, who claimed that they often did work that was done by paid employees in other industries, such as taking lunch orders, putting together office furniture and taking care of travel arrangements. In ruling against the studio, Pauley declared that the studio was the beneficiary of the arrangement, not the interns, and that they didn’t get any educational benefit from the internship. The money quote:
“Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as résumé listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works. But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them…Searchlight received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees.”
Because this was Federal District Court and not some piddling local branch, the ruling could affect the very foundation of unpaid internship “jobs.” A generation of brokesters thanks you, Judge Pauley, and will put up a statue in your honor. Or would, if we had the money to build one.