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Ruling jeopardizes unpaid internships

– Unpaid internships have long been a path of opportunity for students and recent grads looking to get a foot in the door in the entertainment, publishing and other prominent industries, even if it takes a generous subsidy from Mom and Dad.

But those days of working for free could be numbered after a federal judge in New York ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie “Black Swan.”

The decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III may lead some companies to rethink whether it’s worth the legal risk to hire interns to work without pay. For many young people struggling to find jobs in a tough economy, unpaid internships have become a rite of passage essential for padding résumés and gaining experience.

“I’m sure this is causing a lot of discussions to be held in human resource offices and internship programs across the country,” said David Yamada, professor of law at Suffolk University in Boston.

Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, said the number of internships has grown as the economy tumbled and he blamed them for exploiting young workers and driving down wages.

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