(This is the second in a three-part series)
One of the messages that arose in David’s comments, and was echoed with a contrary perspective on Vincent Laforet’s blog (Work for Free?) was the notion of working/interning for free. This gets into some sticky situations with those little things called laws.
Next year marks the 10th year I have run an intern program in my office. During that time, we have had over sixty people come through the business, and every full-time intern has been paid for their contributions to the office. There have been a few part-time interns, and a few of them have had a specific requirement by their schools that they were precluded from being paid. I believe that having someone come into my business and working full-time for free sends the wrong message to them, so we just don't do it.
Thus, I take a contrary position to the sentiments shared in David’s blog comments about interning for free, and I am not alone on this subject. Vincent wrote on his blog - "I’m very very much against working for free. In fact I don’t like people working or interning for me for free. It’s just not good business. Period." What struck me was one commenter on David's blog wrote ""i've been working for David Tejada for free for a little over a year now. it's the best decision i could have made...and working for free with a servants spirits is one way to open doors." FOR A YEAR FOR FREE? Are you kidding me?
First, Tejada should be careful. People working for free is a big U.S. Department of Labor violation (i.e. against the law) unless it's done within strict educational guidelines (and that means in conjunction with an accredited educational instutution, where the person is an actual student at that institution, and the institution is coordinating the learning with the place where the intern is working).
Second, this is a good article titled "Hiring interns for free labor is a no-no" from back in the beginning of the Summer - "Summer interns are ripe for exploitation. They're desperate for real-life experience to help them land a permanent job, at a time when the economy is slowing and positions are scarce. Many are willing to work for free or below-market rates, just to get a foot in the door." The article quotes a lawyer, Rosemary Gousman, from a Murray Hill, N.J.-based regional managing partner at Fisher and Phillips, a labor-law firm. ""Unless you're part of a formal school program, if the intern is doing anything other than strictly shadowing one of your employees, they need to be paid at least minimum wage,". Heck, even in China, the last bastion of Communism, working for free to get your foot in the door is against labor laws (Working for free against labor law, 4/18/06).
Chase commented on his Facebook status that he’d gotten an email from Seth Godin on this (if you don't know, that's a big deal). So, I did a little research on Seth’s approach, and what I found was surprising to me, and more importantly, Seth may get into a little hot water with what he wrote if he's not careful.
Seth too, is making an offer that, on its surface might be attractive, but may very well run him afoul of the same labor laws listed above. Seth invites (Instead of getting an MBA, consider spending six months in my office) for free. Yes, you get to work for Seth for free, and he equates it to an MBA. The problem is, he’s not an accredited institution. Yes, what he offers has value, but not a sheepskin. Will the Department of Labor come a calling? Likely no. If the intern/apprentice/free-worker decides they are unhappy, they will likely have a case and can then file with the Department of Labor then against Seth seeking back wages. On top of that, Seth requires you to cover your own expenses while there, so you are actually paying for the privledge of working for Seth. Word to the wise Seth – be darn sure you get a labor lawyer to look over your paperwork, otherwise you could run afoul of more than a few laws.
Here's a well-spent 3 minutes with Harlan Ellison to wrap this up. I am purposefully putting it at the bottom of ALL THREE pieces to improve the chances that you watch it at-least once:
From several perspectives, I've written extensively on this subject. Here are several links to those pieces:
A Triumph of Hope Over Experience
A Collection of Inconvenient Facts
Free Not Working for Thee?
Businessweak - Amateurs vs. Pros?
Just Say "No" Just So Oversimplified
Speculative Photography - An Introduction
We also wrote all about working for free for places like US Presswire - US Presswire - Introduction.
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