Companies that want people who will work without pay target students, particularly engineering and computer science students. Unpaid internships… Really? The demand is high, the supply is low, the skills are sought after – why would you work for free?
I get really aggravated when companies ask me to post unpaid student internships or jobs. We do not post unpaid jobs. Students need money to pay for their living and educational expenses. The students I work with do not have the luxury of working for free.
There are plenty of jobs! On May 9th the USDOL reported 4.6 million people were hired in March of 2014!
You do not have to work for free. According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), over the past year, 16,700 jobs were added in the Sacramento area; 40,700 jobs were added in the San Jose/Sunnyvale area; and 47,100 jobs were added in the SF/Oakland area. On May 2nd the DOL reported US employment rose by 288,000 in April of 2014.
Slave Labor is Bad! Why do I have to say that? Why is it not obvious? It is not reasonable to expect people to work for nothing when a company profits from their labor.
A short time ago a start-up company came through a student organization to solicit candidates for “job opportunities”. They told the students that they “might” pay at the end of the project. No, employers must pay biweekly… not just when they feel like it.
Some companies will go to extreme lengths to avoid paying. The start-ups are the worst. A Bay Area company “interviewed” a candidate for four days – asking him to trouble shoot a problem coding in an esoteric language to “see if he was good enough to warrant hiring”. He happened to know the language and coded his heart out solving a tough technical problem the company had been struggling with. Not only did they not hire him after he solved their problem, he got stuck with the bill for a hotel room the company had prearranged for his stay.
There are a few instances when it is in the interest of the job seeker to work without pay. The US DOL, Wage and Hour Division, is very clear about the subject. They outline circumstances with 6 criteria – all of which must be met before it is acceptable to have an unpaid internship.
"The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination: [Emphasis added]
- 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."
"If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA. Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience. On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training."
It is rarely, if ever the case, that it would be acceptable to send engineering and computer science students out on unpaid internships. In addition, these students are in very high demand and few can afford to work for free.