Former intern sues Harper’s Bazaar seeking unpaid wages
Xuedan Wang, represented by the firm Outten & Golden, has filed a suit against The Hearst Corporation claiming the company owes wages to their unpaid interns. Wang claims that she worked 40-55 unpaid hours weekly while interning at Harper’s Bazaar. The lawsuit “could shake the publishing industry” writes Jeff Roberts at PaidContent.org.
The case poses philosophic and economic challenges not just for the publishing industry but for an overall economy in which more and more businesses are using interns….In the case of Hearst, its practices may be no better or worse than the dozens of other companies that use interns. The publisher may simply have had the bad luck to have become a test case for the legal parameters of America’s internship economy.
Roberts uses himself as an example of the widespread use of unpaid labor, and gives a taste of the frustration that surely led to Wang’s complaint:
I interned as a fact-checker [at The New York Times] in 2010, providing French translation and GDP calculations for its columnists. I didn’t receive a salary, a lunch or, some days, even a greeting.
The use and/or abuse of interns has become an increasingly hot topic (see Verso’s Intern Nation). What do you think? Is the system broken? If so, how should it be fixed?
I’m particularly curious to hear interns (past or present) respond to this. I might as well start. As an undergraduate, I interned at the LA WEEKLY, which eventually led to a paid job fact-checking, assisting the music editor, and writing for the paper. This seemed like an ideal internship experience: a valuable, short-term career education that leads to paid work. However, I can easily imagine the labor abuses inherent to the internship system as well…