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LeBron James Needs to Pay His Interns

marketwatch.com—Silvia Ascarelli

LeBron James is hunting for interns.

The basketball star is pretty particular: college students (and, yes, you must still be in school) residing in Ohio (that’s where he grew up), South Florida (he plays for the Miami Heat) or New York, fluent in Spanish, with journalism, marketing or communications experience and with a strong knowledge of basketball and technology trends are eligible. Oh, and prospects be available at least 10 hours a week through the spring, summer and fall terms.

What there is no mention of is pay.

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The Department of Labor, cracking down on unpaid internships, has six criteria that it says must all be met if an internship can be unpaid. Among them: that the employer derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.

Some companies do meet those criteria, says Justin Swartz, a partner at Outten & Golden, a New York law firm that only represents employees, including unpaid interns. (In one, a class-action lawsuit against “The Charlie Rose Show” was settled with “substantial” payments to about 190 interns.) Those firms may have interns sit in on meetings and attend events, all the while resisting the temptation to hand them productive work.

But a look at the job posting for LeBronJames.com suggests that is unlikely here, Swartz said. Responsibilities such as “communicating and interacting with LeBron fans around the world” and maintaining basketball dossiers suggest James will be benefiting from the interns’ work, he noted.

“If LeBron wants students to take their talents to South Beach, he should pay them for their work,” Swartz said.

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