A cry against 10 unpaid internships advertised by WIND Mobile

Here we go again. Another well-known Canadian company seeks unpaid interns and the advertisement clearly shows the position would violate employment laws. WIND Mobile has posted TEN positions (see below) all of which state they are seeking an “Unpaid Summer Intern to join our Toronto [or Mississauga] Office.” Here are all the internship positions (the links are to PDF versions of WIND Mobile’s advertisements that I have saved onto our site in case they are taken down):

WIND Mobile is sitting on our Name & Shame Wall for a number of reasons:

  • These jobs are disguised as internships and breaking the law. They are unlikely to meet the criteria for an exemption under s. 1(2) of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (read more here) and the interns would also be considered an employee under the federal Canada Labour Code (read more here). It appears these interns would be entitled to Ontario’s minimum wage of $10.25 an hour.
  • The nature of the work is highly skilled creating a further entitlement for paySome examples of work requirement in the advertisements: “system and hardware troubleshooting,” “handle unlock codes request,” “develop and Accessory Deck for each device,” “recruitment / job fair coordination,” “day to day HR admin support.” Many of the postings have certain educational requirements such as “Bachelors Degree,” “University degree or college diploma in HR,” “Bachelors Degree in Science or Engineering,” and “University or College Diploma in Marketing, Communications, or Business.”
  • These interns are replacing what should be paid positions. Although the advertisements mainly state “part-time” and no hours are listed, it is clear from the roles and responsibilities that these interns are doing work that is necessary for the functioning of the company and taking away a paid position.

The Canadian Intern Association is calling on WIND Mobile to comply with Canada’s employment laws and pay the interns who fill these positions at least the minimum wage. We also want to remind WIND Mobile that this is not only a legal issue, but a corporate social responsibility issue since providing only unpaid positions prevents those people who cannot afford the internship for joining your company. These internships are also contributing to currently high youth unemployment rates and making it difficult for students to pay back large student loans with a summer job.

We hope to bring these issues to WIND Mobile’s attention and we would appreciate help from anyone that can help us do that!

– Claire Seaborn

Also, take a look at www.youthandwork.com’s post “Why Can’t WIND Mobile Pay Their Interns?” It explains that as a federally regulated company, WIND Mobile’s internships are prohibited under the Canada Labour Code:

Under “Hours of Work – 802-1-IPG-002“, a policy directive published by Federal Department of Labour, it states that training scheme of longer durations where a person is performing aspects of a job a de-facto employment relationship develops and the person must be compensated for the hours that they work. Legalities aside, posting multiple unpaid internships like this reeks of exploitation by a corporate giant that could easily pay the minimum wage.

FYI, here is the Indeed.com job search page that shows all the internship postings:

http://www.internassociation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Wind-Mobile-Intern-Jobs-in-Toronto-ON-Indeed.com_.pdf

HootSuite Media Inc responds to complaints about their unpaid internships

About HootSuites’s Internships

HootSuite Media Inc.operates a social media management system and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. They offer a number of internships on their website, including “Strategic Accounts Analyst – Intern,” “Affiliate Marketing Intern,” “Community Ambassador, Europe – Intern,” “Community Ambassador Intern,” “HootSuite University Intern,” “Social Media Coach Intern,” “HootSuite University Multimedia Intern,” and “Revenue Operations – Intern.” These positions are available to university graduates willing to work full time for several months and, until recently, these positions were listed as “unpaid.”

Complaints on Reddit

Yesterday a Reddit user started a thread called “Hootsuite is hiring unpaid Interns, this is illegal in BC” and so far it has 391 comments. HootSuite responded by removing the following line from each internship advertisement: “Note this position is a 3 month internship at present with a commitment of Monday to Friday with core hours of 9am-5pm and that the role is unpaid.” HootSuite also made the following comment on facebook:

It is fantastic to see this issue gain so much interest and I really appreciate the contributions from the Reddit community. One user saved the internship advertisements before they were changed and another found the following quotation from an interview with David Oslen (HootSuite’s Community Marketing Director) from 2011: “My internships are (almost) always non-paid. Opinions throughout the industry differ on this point, but it’s your choice to make.” Someone even posted HootSuite’s Internship Contract and a link to details about HootSuite’s fancy new office space (presumably to make the point that the company is clearly capable of paying its interns).

BC Laws on Internships

BC’s Employment Standards Act states all employees must be paid at least the BC minimum wage ($10.25 per hour for most employees).  An “employee” is a person receiving or entitled to wages for work performed for another, who was hired and receives training from an employer.  ”Work” is defined as labour or services an employee performs for an employer whether in the employee’s residence or elsewhere.

According to the Interpretation Guidelines Manual, an “internship” may be considered “work” and therefore is subject to the minimum wage. An internship is defined as follows:

“An “internship” is on-the-job training offered by an employer to provide a person with practical experience. Often internships are offered to persons who have completed a diploma or degree program and are seeking employment. Completing an internship does not itself result in an academic certificate or diploma. If the duties performed by interns fall within the definition of  “work” contained in the Act, the intern falls within the definition of “employee”, and the agency using the services of an intern falls within the definition of “employer”, internships will be considered “work” for the purposes of the Act.”

BC has distinguished an “internship” from a “practicum.” A practicum is “hands-on” training that is part of a formal education process and done for school credit.  A practicum is not considered “work” and therefore not subject to the minimum wage.

For a more detailed explanation of the law, tips for interns in BC, and organizations to contact check out this article from www.youthandwork.com that was also featured in the Ubyssey.

Are HootSuite’s Internships Illegal?

HootSuite’s unpaid internships are almost certainly illegal in British Columbia. They do not appear to be part of a formal course of study leading to a certificate, diploma or degree and according to the original advertisement the intern is expected to work 40 hours per week. It looks like HootSuite’s unpaid interns would be able to file a complaint under the BC Employment Standards Act and seek the minimum wage they are entitled to for their work.

I would like to discourage HootSuite from simply informing candidates that contact them that these positions are unpaid (since it is no longer in the advertisement) and encourage them instead to offer jobs to university graduates that at least provide minimum wage compensation.

UPDATE

The Canadian Intern Association has just received an email from HootSuite’s Communications Manager in Vancouver with the following statement from HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes:

“At HootSuite, we pride ourselves on being an employer of choice in both Vancouver, and around the world. Recently, I learned about some concerns that a few of our internship job postings may not be in compliance with the local laws. I appreciate those who have taken the time to bring this to our attention and we will immediately review this internally. When we created the internship program, I believed we were doing the right thing by offering the opportunity for young people to add experience to their resume and join a Vancouver success story. If we learn these internships are not compliant, we will fix it.

HootSuite’s internship program was designed to help invest in and develop our local residents. Nearly everyone who has participated in the internship program has found it beneficial. For example, in the last year over 50 percent of the interns have received full-time employee positions at HootSuite. Many others have successfully moved on to strong careers at other BC companies, taking with them skills from their internship experience at HootSuite. The overwhelming majority of HootSuite’s interns and employees enjoy their jobs at HootSuite and the company was recently selected to win 1st place as “2012 Best Companies: More Than 100 Employees”, by BC Business.

To provide more detail on the HootSuite internship program, our legal review indicates that no more than 15 HootSuite’s interns in the past twelve months may be affected by the unpaid internship guidelines and will be reviewed by our team.

At HootSuite, we truly believe our internships provide positive opportunities and rewards to our employees. We are committed to review the program internally and follow the legislative guidelines. I have always been a strong proponent of the local technology industry and am committed to finding a solution that is fair for everyone involved.

Thank you
Ryan Holmes
CEO, HootSuite”

I would like to commend HootSuite for responding to this issue so promptly and making a concerted effort to rectify the problem. I have responded to the email thanking them the statement and also suggesting that they pay past and present unpaid interns at least minimum wage retroactively for the hours they have worked. If HootSuite’s internships are modified to comply with existing employment laws in British Columbia we will be happy to give them a Canadian Intern Association stamp of approval!

I will also point out that the Reddit thread now has over 500 comments and this story has gotten a ton of press:

Great work everyone!

-Claire Seaborn

Please email us with more unpaid internship advertisements to add to our “Name & Shame” wall.

Problems with IMAX Corp’s 4 month unpaid internship

This morning I came across a “job” posting on indeed.com from IMAX Corporation who is offering a four month “Human Resources Unpaid Internship” in Mississauga, Ontario this summer.

Read the full posting here: IMAX Corp Unpaid Internship Job Posting

In my opinion, this position would not meet the requirements under s. 1(2) of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and this intern would be entitled to minimum wage. Here is why:

  • It is unclear whether the intern will be a student working towards a university or college degree. On one hand the posting says “unpaid co-op” but it also says a bachelors or college degree is required for the position. Based on Ontario’s employment standards, this position is more likely to be legal if it is part of an educational program. 
  • The “responsibilities” listed resemble tasks that would normally done by a full-time staff member; for example, this intern would “manage all co-op hiring for IMAX Corporation,” “complete reference checks,” and do “Group Health, LTD, and Pension administration.”
  • Although the posting says there is an “opportunity to learn about HR day-to-day operations”, there are few things under “key responsibilities” that seem to provide training for the benefit of the intern. 

Here are a few other problems with this posting:

  • IMAX Corporation claims to be an “equal opportunity employer” when their position likely does not meet Ontario employments standards and they have not provided an equal opportunity to applicants that cannot afford a four month full-time unpaid internship.
  • The unpaid intern doing “Group Health, LTD, and Pension administration” is especially frustrating since the intern is not entitled to any of these benefits themselves.
  • As a “one of the world’s leading entertainment technology companies,” IMAX Corporation is clearly capable of paying someone to do this job or making this a paid summer position.
  • This summer position is full-time and four months long. It is very difficult to students to pay for their university or college education when they spend their summers working completely unpaid.

If you come across other problematic unpaid internship advertisements, send them to us at info@internassociation.ca.

Claire Seaborn

 

Exposing unpaid internships at the Women’s Post

The Canadian Intern Association has sent the following letter to the Women’s Post regarding their advertisement for an unpaid intern. Let’s see whether we get a response!

To the Women’s Post Team

I am writing in response to your advertisement on Craigslist for a “Women’s Post online intern.”

My name is Claire Seaborn and I am a law student at the University of Ottawa. I am also the founder of the Canadian Intern Association– we advocate against the exploitation of unpaid interns and aim to improve the internship experience for interns and employers.

I would like to express my discontent with the Women’s Post offering this position. First, unpaid internships are typically against the law in Ontario and based on your advertisement, it looks like this position will not meet Ontario’s employment standards. Second, unpaid internships disproportionately and negatively affect women. I would like to draw your attention to an article I wrote that discusses why unpaid internships are a gendered issue.

On behalf of the Canadian Intern Association, I suggest that you either pay your intern Ontario’s minimum wage ($10.25 per hour) or meet the guidelines for unpaid internships under s. 1(2) of the Employment Standards Act.

Given that the Women’s Post is a magazine designed for professional women, I also encourage you to publish a piece about the illegality of unpaid internships and their impact on women.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Claire Seaborn

Chair,
Canadian Intern Association