New York Times to pay academic interns minimum wage

Photo credit: Rachael Levy

UPDATE (March 27, 2:24 EST): The New York Times will no longer have any interns who are paid below minimum wage, according to Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

The New York Times will start paying minimum wage to its academic interns, who previously could have been paid as little as $3.85 an hour.

The interns will be paid $8 an hour and will be paid back wages for work already completed this semester, said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

Murphy said the Times’ change in policy would affect “a handful” of interns. Interns that worked during the school year had previously been paid $500 a semester, received academic credit and could work up to 10 hours a week for 13 weeks, which would have equaled about $3.85 an hour. Academic interns who previously worked for the Times before this semester will not receive back wages, Murphy said.

This development comes more than a week after the publisher removed a listing for a for-credit student internship.

Many employers require student interns to receive academic credits from their universities. The Times was criticized in social media for posting an unpaid internship for academic credit, despite its own tough editorial against the practice, which praised New York University and Columbia University for shifting away from unpaid internships.

The editorial highlighted Columbia in particular for ceasing to offer academic credit for the positions, as they “mostly functioned as a fig leaf for employers, who could pretend that the credit somehow justified not paying for a student’s work.”

Murphy, the Times spokeswoman, said the policy change was not a result of press coverage. She said that the interns were taking part in an educational program and receiving academic credit.

Under federal and New York labor law, any work that benefits a for-profit company should be paid the minimum wage and academic credit cannot necessarily be substituted for wages, according to several employment lawyers.

“Even if it’s a menial task, like making copies and getting coffee, those are things that otherwise a paid employee would have to do,” Sally Abrahamson, a lawyer for Outten & Golden, recently told BoroughBuzz in an article about the changes at Columbia and New York universities.

Last year, a judge ruled in favor of a group of unpaid interns who had worked on the set of Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan.” The judge ruled that receiving academic credit for an internship did not mean the internship shouldn’t be paid minimum wage. Fox Searchlight is appealing the case.

Internships throughout the company are paid differently, said New York Times guild representative Anthony Napoli.

The company’s website reports that Times summer internships, for example, are paid about $960 a week during the course of the summer. Interns in the marketing department, on the other hand, receive $25 an hour, according to a source, who asked not to be named because the person was not authorized to speak with media.