I subscribed to Upworthy‘s RSS feed a while ago when friends kept linking me there to see things I thought were worth seeing. It seemed only reasonable to, in turn, pop on over to SoulPancake when I realized I’d seen their logo on a lot of the Upworthy video links I’d liked.
While I was looking for SoulPancake’s RSS feed, however, I happened on the news section which is currently topped with this:
We are looking for smart, friendly, hard-working people to help us around the SoulPancake office. Interns must be students, currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited university. Interns should be able to commit to a minimum of 10 hours per week, and up to 20 hours, for a minimum of 3 months. Internships are unpaid, but spaces are limited.
Emphasis mine. Look, I’m not harping directly on unpaid internships, mind you. However, there are very specific legal guidelines regarding what those have to entail. You can download a pdf of the full regulations here or hit the Department of Labor’s fact sheet online here, but for now we’ll just use the compact list:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Numbers 3 and, especially, 4 are the most relevant here. Pointing to only the elements in the responsibilities lists which seem most noteworthy:
I just … look: whether you agree with the law or not, I think it’s pretty explicit. When you have people performing your primary business for you, you simply no longer get to pretend you don’t have a business relationship with an unpaid intern.
Trying to do so is especially uncomfortable if you’re the kind of business which is building its brand around pep talks to teachers and students with taglines like “What are you teaching the world?”