Campion Platt: Luxurious Exploitation

Posted by NadaPimp

Luxury might be "about materials and context" as his website asserts, but refusing to pay a summer intern seems less than luxurious.

MR Architecture and Decor: interior design on the cheap

Posted by POTY

Stylish designer David Mann seeks an interior designer who will run his errands.

Dirty Greens Pt. 1: Clean Solar Inc.

Posted by NadaPimp

We urge Clean Solar Inc. to look beyond sustainable energy and adopt a sustainable business structure that fairly compensates all employees.

Our Mission

Posted by BBHMM

Offering inexperienced and desperate young architects jobs working for free or less than minimum wage is plain immoral, unfair, and typically illegal. This blog will aim to end this practice by exposing the firms that unfairly treat their employees.

From Archinect Jobs:
Workshop/APD, an award winning design firm based in New York City, seeks an unpaid architectural intern.

In addition to digital modeling, drafting and rendering, applicants should show an ability to organize, have strong oral and written communication skills, and display a willingness to assist in the administrative functions of a fast-paced office.

Specific requirements include strong knowledge of the following programs:
  • AutoCAD
  • Adobe programs (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)
  • 3-D Studio Max, Maya, and/or Form Z
Projects range from traditional to modern and applicants should demonstrate an understanding and interest in both areas. For a broader understanding of our work, please go to

This is an unpaid internship. The number of hours depend on applicant availability.
The principals of workshop/apd are Andrew Kotchen and Michael Berman. You might recognize these two from the Rockport Shoe advertisements. It is no news that many firms have been hit hard by the economic downturn. One sector of the economy that hasn't taken much of a hit is the custom home market for the uber wealthy. workshop/apd is lucky enough to be in this market with many 8000+ sf homes in their portfolio. Currently they are working on the new Visitor's Center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Our guess is that Berman and Kotchen are some of the lucky few that can actually afford to pay their workers. It is truly unfortunate that they feel the need to exploit young workers. Any job requiring "strong knowledge" of design programs, as the one posted above, shouldn't be an unpaid internship. They should at least be offering free Rockport Shoes as payment!

If you'd like to contact Mr. Berman or Mr. Kotchen you can email them here.
Lest we appear too judgmental, we will take a break today from our exposés. We have noticed in our recent endeavors that the inability to provide employees with compensationseems to be a problem uniquely specific to design and architecture fields. We are here to help!

Today we will look at the right way and the wrong way to employ an unpaid intern.

The wrong way:

This job offer is questionably legal.
Under the Fair Labor Act:
"employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers. In the vast majority of circumstances, individuals can volunteer services to public sector employers. There is no prohibition on anyone employed in the private sector from volunteering in any capacity or line of work in the public sector."

B&B Sheet Metal intimates that they are seeking a student for their internship position. Theoretically, this student would gain practical training and CNC experience in exchange for contributiong CAD work to the company. Unlike many past examples, this arrangement is only legal in exchange for course credit.

Based on the Supreme Court ruling in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148, 152 (1947) The U.S. Department of Labor offers six guidelines for legal unpaid internship:

1. The training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students;
3. The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
5. The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

If one or more conditions is not explicitly met, the intern qualifies as an employee and unpaid status is illegal

The provision of educational course credit negates any question concerning an intern's potential standing as an employee.
In a May 10, 1983, opinion letter, the Department of Labor determined that where students would receive college credits for performing an “internship… which involves the students in real-life situations and provides the students with educational experiences unobtainable in a classroom setting,” the interns would not be considered employees.

First, it falls on the employer to screen applicants for present enrollment in a related educational program. Any failure to do this is a violation of federal labor law. Second, the employer must make arrangements with applicable faculty or coordinators to compensate the intern with credit. Without a course credit arrangement the legality of the preceding internship posting is questionable due to a difficulty meeting guideline #4. The company would need to prove that the work done by the intern provides "no immediate advantage" to the company. Furthermore, it would be interesting to investigate whether the company is serious about accepting only current students or facilitating course credit.

For an example of a careful and thoroughly legal job posting, we can look to the following posting from luxury retailer Fendi:

Please note how carefully Fendi emphasizes the terms of employment:
"This is a non-paying internship and students **MUST** be able to receive school credit."
This small disclaimer is all that is needed to avoid illegality. Through their attention to labor law and emphasis on proper internship terms Fendi has given us an example of best practice and, in this issue, has proven themselves a responsible corporate citizen.
While we typically expose exploitative job offers, our mission extends to cover working conditions to all architects and designers. We were interested in the following news sent to a member of our investigative team:

Some at Yamasaki go unpaid since January, complaints say
from Crain's Detroit Business

As lawsuits accumulate against Troy-based architectural firm Yamasaki Associates Inc., the company also is under review by the state for failing to pay some employees for more than two and a half months.

The state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth Wage and Hour Division reports it has received eight complaints against Yamasaki involving nonpayment of wages since late January.


“We were getting paid on a regular schedule, and then at first it started out where the check was a few days late, then it was a week late, then one of mine bounced back in the fall and had to reissue,” said one Yamasaki employee, a projects manager who asked not to be identified.

“Then they told us they were moving from payday on every other Thursday to once a month. We thought that might help them and make it more consistent, only we haven't actually been paid once since the change.”

The employee said the most recent company paychecks that he and more than 80 percent of the current 50 or so employees received, other than some clerical and secretarial staff, were on Jan. 29.


“What we're told is they aren't paying anyone because they've been using the money to pay rent and utilities, and this is some kind of cash-flow problem,” he said. “But you can't continue to expect your employees to work hard and not pay them, and you have to try to do something.”

A follow up article reports that Architectural firm Yamasaki Associates ‘making good on the payment of claims found due’. However, an anonymous commenter reports that only those who filed complaints were getting compensated and that Yamasaki cancelled health coverage while continuing to deduct health plan fees from paychecks.

While this story is stunning in its scale and brashness it unfortunately reflects a larger reality. In how many other professions would employees work for ten weeks without being paid? How long would autoworkers labor without compensation? What about lawyers or surgeons or consultants?

Even after ten weeks of unpaid work only eight persons brought themselves to file formal complaints.

Why do architects often undervalue themselves and their contributions? What about our culture makes us susceptible to exploitation and intimidation?
From Craigslist SF:
Internship- Solar Industry (San Jose, CA)

Clean Solar, Inc. is looking for a motivated unpaid intern to learn about the solar industry. The position would be part-time (20+ hours/week). Clean Solar will teach you about the solar industry. You will learn how to design solar systems, organize the office, prepare all paperwork to complete solar systems. Come join our team.

We are looking for Individuals who/with:
-Work great in small teams
-Have reliable transportation
-Are time-efficient
-Have design experience (CAD or the like)
-Like new company excitement
-Very Organized
-Want to grow & take on more responsibility

Clean Solar will provide
-A future in the fast-growing solar industry
-In-depth inside knowledge regarding all that is solar
-A progressive work-environment
-An exciting learning environment
-Access and education in one of the fastest growing industries in the world

This is a great opportunity for a hard-working focused individual to get into an exciting field, be involved in a wide range of activities, and really learn a lot about the industry.
We will take care of our entire staff.

Clean Solar Inc., founded by owner Randy Zechman, is a Top 10 Solar Contractor in Northern California who has partnered with a local vocational school to work on a sustainable energy curriculum.

This offer provoked some consideration amongst our editorial staff. Unlike many of the previous exposés we have run circumstances surrounding this situation are not clear. On one hand this is a part time position in a fledgling industry that requires considerable training. On the other hand the ad clearly targets those with some degree of design experience (CAD requirement etc) who should adapt easily to new tasks. Furthermore, the position description undermines the training claim by emphasizing clerical tasks over specialized labor.

We acknowledge that some might see the potential to gain specialized training in such a position as a balance for lack of pay, but we urge Clean Solar Inc. to look beyond sustainable energy and adopt a sustainable business structure that fairly compensates all employees.

What is your opinion?

You can contact Clean Solar Inc. directly here.
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