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Unpaid Work: Still Popular, Still Not So Much Legal

People working for free is “the new norm,” according to the owner of a startup that has used 50 unpaid interns over the past three years.

“People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative,” Kelly Fallis, the owner of that startup, Remote Stylist, told Fortune.

Some people work for free to gain experience or a foot in the door. Others do it just to feel useful, like in the case of Cassie Johnson, who lost her job and could only land an assistant manager position at Starbucks. She’s now interning at a PR firm, which she said makes her feel happy and relevant again. “I’m not making any money, so it’s tough, but I feel it’s setting me up for a career.”

But as mentioned on this blog numerous times, you can’t just legally work for free: “A lot of employers don’t get that the law is not about personal responsibility or agreements between consenting adults; it’s about getting the pay to people as the law requires,” John Thompson, a partner at employment law firm Fisher & Phillips in Atlanta, told Fortune.

Fallis’s “interns” commit to a 4-month stint at 30 hours minimum per week. That is because “she has been burned in the past by people who were trying to juggle a paid job with their commitment to Remote Stylist.”

Trying to put food on the table while working for free at another job? The nerve.


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