Online review site intern wins in court

A former unpaid intern for online review site My Village has won the right to be recognised as a paid worker by British courts, AdWeek reported today.

Keri Hudson won the right to back pay after the website did not come through with training and other stipulations that would have warranted her as working for free. Her case was funded by the National Union of Journalists’ Cashback for Interns campaign, which won her £1,025 for five weeks’ work at the national minimum wage rate, plus pro rata holiday pay, according to MediaGuardian.

Hudson started at My Village in December, after responding to an advertisement for an unpaid intern. After not receiving training or induction, and promises of being paid never came through, she was still working for free 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., editing and uploading content to the site, as well as managing six other unpaid interns.

The court’s decision shows that in Britain, even if the original agreement was for a free volunteer, if an intern does real work and does not receive certain training, he or she is entitled to pay.

“This judgment says that if someone is taken on as intern, and is doing a proper job rather than just being trained, then they will be regarded as a worker for the purposes of the national minimum wage,” Roy Mincoff, the NUJ’s legal officer, told MediaGuardian.

My Village denies taking advantage of young, unpaid workers, and has said it will appeal the judgment, AdWeek noted.

In the United States, the number of unpaid internships has increased in recent years, all while job openings has been on the decline. The issue was reported on last year by The New York Times, which found that violations of unpaid internships are widespread, and minimum wage laws are frequently ignored.

Other than interns, bloggers have also begun speaking out about what they say are unfair practices. Perhaps the most notable case has been at the Huffington Post, where former blogger Jonathan Tasini has led a group filing a US$1.05 million lawsuit against the site.

Arianna Huffington has said the site gives bloggers exposure, while many of the bloggers say the website profits from their work, and doesn’t give them a cut.

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