Unpaid Internships

Mark Cuban recently posted a screed about how he was unable to provide unpaid internships through the Mavericks.  Mark explains:

One silver lining of a “great recession” that we are now in is that there are a lot of incredibly talented people without jobs, or who have lost their jobs. I didn’t care if they were 18 years old or 73 years old.  I thought we could assemble a talented group who would enjoy the internships and could also gain valuable experience to add to their resumes.  When the economy opened up, one of two things would hopefully occur.  We were generating revenue from this effort and we could hire them, or they had just built up their resumes and improved their chances of finding a paying job.

Makes sense right ?

Wrong. Enter the US Government.

This is what our HR person, who his supersmart and really knows his stuff came back with

“The law says that interns have to be paid unless they are perfoming work that is of no value to the organization; ie., helps them in some way but we get no benefit from their work.  Thus we would have to create work that is useless to us  if we choose not to pay them.  How silly is that?”

I would love to hear the thoughts on employment lawyers on this one. The additional info Mark provides appears to support what he was told.

I understand the concept of not violating minimum wage laws. However, when I look back at the two internships that I did what I was in college, I am sure of a few things. First, if the “employer” would have had to pay me, I would not have had the opportunity offered by the internship. Second, if I had been paid for what I was doing (at least in my first internship) that would have been unfair. Third, the experience I gained in the first internship convinced me that I wanted nothing to do with local government. Fourth, the experience I gained at my second internship, provided me with foundational skills that I still use today.

It’s just sad to learn that the internships I had would be illegal today.