Internship laws prevent abuse from lawyers, outweigh consequences

I’d like to respond to Michael Lauck’s column “Unpaid internship laws misguided.” His premise is that new regulations make business into “charitable organizations.” As a computer science major, I had two internships, one at a large company, and one at a small company. Both were paid internships. Neither company was being “charitable” as they were receiving services they paid for. The fact of the matter is that these laws prevent companies from abusing students in a down economy to get free labor.

Lauck’s idea that internships are a gamble for a company is ill-conceived at best. Texas is a “right to hire, right to fire” state. That means a company can fire you at any time for any reason (well, almost any reason). How is it a gamble when an employer can fire someone at any second, and aren’t paying the intern in the first place?

Further, saying that internships should be about starting out at the bottom is ludicrous. Any company sending interns to get coffee or clean the bathroom is clearly abusing an intern. The entire point of an internship is to get marketable experience on the job so that you are more competitive in the work force. While janitorial tasks may have been the norm in the past, times change. Is Lauck going to argue that slavery should be legal next too just because that’s how “companies” got labor in the past?

Lastly, Lauck insinuates that working for a company that treats you badly is an intern’s “personal problem.” I’d hope this man never works in human resources. This is the exact kind of argument harassers try to pass off to shame harassees into not reporting them, etc. Federal mandates are there to correct obvious, poor working conditions. Again, where would the line be drawn if laws like this did not exist?

Lauck is right that laws do have negative consequences. The question is, do the benefits outweigh them? In this case, the answer is clearly yes.

Thomas Guidry is a 2007 graduate in computer information science from Lafayette, La.