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61 Hastings L.J. 1531 (2009-2010)
America's New Glass Ceiling: Unpaid Internships, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Urgent Need for Change

handle is hein.journals/hastlj61 and id is 1541 raw text is: Notes
America's New Glass Ceiling:
Unpaid Internships, the Fair Labor Standards
Act, and the Urgent Need for Change
Unpaid internships are increasing in the United States, and one can surmise that they
will become even more common as the economy continues to deteriorate. Most
internships are not paid, especially in glamorous fields, such as politics or
entertainment. Instead of wages, the company offering the internship promises the
candidate great experience and an opportunity to get his foot in the door. Because
employers respond favorably to internship experience on a resume, individuals see
internships as increasingly necessary to be competitive in the job market. But without
being paid, low-income individuals often cannot afford to take them. This raises a
troubling class divide between entry-level jobseekers who can afford the luxury of
unpaid experience and those who cannot. Because employers may decide to hire
unpaid interns instead of paid laborers, unpaid internships also indirectly contribute to
rising unemployment.
These serious problems are exacerbated the extremely convoluted and unclear nature
of the federal law governing unpaid interns. Under current federal law, it is often
difficult to tell whether an internship is illegal, and to even know where to begin in
suggesting change. Indeed, suggesting change to the law governing unpaid interns begs
the question: what law?
This Note urges the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor to
promulgate a rule that will create an explicit intern-learner exemption to the FLSA,
similar to the current learner exemption. This new rule will benefit both interns and
businesses, by clarifying that anyone who qualifies as an employee for purposes of
the FLSA must be paid minimum wage, but allowing employers who create an
approved intern-training program to pay their interns slightly less than minimum
wage. This will subject internship programs to regulation by the Department of Labor
and ensure that all who are legally entitled to wages receive payment, ultimately leading
to a decrease in unpaid internships nationwide.
* J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 2010. I would like to thank my
advisor, Reuel Schiller, for his invaluable guidance and input on this project, the editors of the Hastings
Law Journal for their hard work on this Note, and my friends and family for their helpful comments and
suggestions. I would especially like to thank Jesse Basbaum, Greg Gomes, and Tobias Curiale for their
consistent patience and support throughout this process.


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