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Keller @ Large: Lawyers Threaten To Ruin Unpaid Internships

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WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Thanks a lot, lawyers, for taking a giant step toward doing away with that launching pad into the working world, the unpaid internship.

Or should I say, thanks for nothing.

A federal judge has ruled that a movie studio “violated minimum wage and overtime laws” by using unpaid interns to do menial administrative work on one of its productions. The judge agrees the interns benefited by receiving “resume listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works,’’ but says the arrangement was still illegal because they weren’t in a system “intentionally structured to benefit them.”

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Got that?

They benefited, but not in the proper bureaucratic structure.

This distinction delighted one of the plaintiffs, who says internships have become “a form of institutionalized wage theft.’’ He’s still not earning any wages though – he’s busy studying to be, you guessed it, a lawyer.

I’m OK with all this insofar as no company should be allowed to exploit interns by failing to provide some benefit for their labor, and interns should never be able to take away paying jobs. But this ruling has some troubling implications.

Millions of kids get their first working experience from internships. Will these now evaporate?

What about volunteers?

If you hope to play pro baseball one day, will your park league team have to start paying you now?

You would hope any problems with the internship system could be worked out without throwing the opportunity out with the bath water.

But forget about that. The lawyers are involved now.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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