Photo by: Will Gentry
In their fight for workplace equality, college interns have found yet another ally in InternMatch, a company who drafted an “Intern Bill of Rights” to help protect them in the workplace.
It’s no secret that college students find internships to be a very crucial learning experience to have while in school.
“I think internships are important because you’re getting experience and you’re learning about your field of study,” sophomore Kali Roberson said. “I also think it’s a great way to learn and it’s a great way to figure out if you like what you’ve chosen or if you need to change your major.”
InternMatch, a company that started about four years ago, is dedicated to helping college students find legal, fair and safe places to intern whether the internship is paid or unpaid.
“The Intern Bill of Rights came about based on our internal knowledge that some unpaid internships were illegal and that they left students vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination because they are not formal employees,” Nathan Parcells, chief marketing officer at InternMatch, said.
These problems gained national attention and brought about major court decisions.
“Very recently, a major case has come up in which a judge ruled that interns are not legally protected against these things, and it grabbed national attention, but we had been thinking about these things for a while and we are just really passionate about supporting students in their [internship] process because they sort of inherently have a lack of power,” Parcells said.
Students agree with the stance InternMatch has taken to protect their rights in the workplace.
“I think college students only know a certain amount of things when it comes to these jobs because we’re still learning,” Roberson said. “I think there does need to be a list of guidelines that explain what is right and what is wrong and the things that companies need to do regarding these interns who come in. That way, the intern knows ahead of time what to expect from their experience because it’s when they don’t know that they get taken advantage of.”
Court cases regarding these internships started grabbing national attention as early as 2011 when a group of interns filed a lawsuit against the Fox Entertainment Group’s “Black Swan” production when they received no compensation for their completed internships, despite doing the same quality and quantity of work that regular employees had done.
From these court cases, interns have come a long way and have started earning more workplace equality and rights.
According to federal law, if internships at profit-making companies are to be unpaid, they must foster an educational environment, and companies like InternMatch are trying to hold intern-heavy companies to that law as well as add new ones to protect student rights.
“We felt that setting some common guidelines would be extremely helpful for some employers who maybe don’t know all of the best practices to follow, and that it’s getting companies with students to support this,” Parcells said.
The question this presents is how the Intern Bill of Rights works.
“There’s a URL to the Bill of Rights for both students and employers where they can take a pledge to support it,” Parcells said. “Companies don’t have to do necessarily everything that’s listed on the Bill of Rights, but if they’re looking for some of the better practices and guidelines on how to deal with internships, we have those.”
Some students said this is a way to ensure fairness to interns.
“The Intern Bill of Rights is a good foundation for any company wanting to hire college students,” senior Andrea Dennis said. “It’s nothing that is outrageous, it’s just giving students the same courtesy they’d give any other employee.”
Aside from providing the “Intern Bill of Rights” to protect students, InternMatch is also dedicated to helping students in their search for internship positions.
“InternMatch is now one of the leading online sources for finding high-quality positions and we work with over 900 universities that refer students to our site and we work with over 10,000 employers,” Parcells said. “Companies post positions as well as create rich profiles describing what it’s like to work at the company, including videos and pictures, so it’s a really great place to go and research companies as well.”
InternMatch’s services are completely free for students and include access to thousands of internship and job postings, resume tips, cover letter tips and countless blog entries to help obtain, maintain and shine at an internship and guidelines to picking an internship that matches the user’s needs and interests.
“Tens of thousands of students have been matched and directly hired through the site,” Parcells said. “The process is that you apply to the company through InternMatch and then the company itself will respond, set up an interview and then go through their regular hiring process.”
To register and use InternMatch resources, visit www.internmatch.com.