Are Unpaid Internships Legal?

office desk by Flickr user Sean MacEntee, licensed by Creative Commons

                       Looks about right

Internships offer college students and recent graduates a valuable way to gain experience in their fields of study. Regardless of how educational internships may be, they can be incredibly frustrating if they require the students to work for free.

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Brooklyn Woman Arrested After Filming Police

Camera-'phone by Flickr user GlasgowAmateur, licensed by Creative Commons

      Could be filming some police brutality

Did you know that New York City paid $550 million in lawsuits during the 2011 fiscal year?  That is $70 from every resident in the New York area.  Taxpayers are paying at least $185 million for NYPD lawsuits alone!  Well, there is yet another lawsuit against the NYPD, because of racial profiling that comes along with searching and frisking.

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Salty Students Receive $1 Million For Being Peppered

Sailor receives pepper spray training by Flickr user Official U.S. Navy Imagery, licensed by Creative Commons

This is training, not a peaceful protest

Twenty one current and former University of California, Davis students have been awarded almost $1 million in a settlement with the University of California regents following a 2011 pepper spray incident.  Viral outrage over the incident was sparked when videos and images of a U.C.-Davis officer spraying defenseless students were posted to the internet.  The students, seen seated in a group, were participating in an Occupy protest to display their displeasure in increasing tuition prices and decreasing services.  Each student will individually receive $30,000 as well as a handwritten apology from Linda Katehi, the chancellor at U.C. Davis.  In addition to the settlement $630,000 was set aside for the 21 plaintiffs, another $250,000 will be issued to pay for legal fees and costs to the lawyers involved in the suit.  Moreover, the suit has since been recognized as a class action and will offer portions of an additional $100,000 that has been set aside for any other students who come forward with claims of being sprayed.

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Colorado Man Wins $7.2 Million From Popcorn Fumes

Nothing like a buttery bowl of popcorn and a movie, right?  This is no longer the case for Wayne Watson from Denver, who developed a lung disease similar to bronchitis after inhaling the fumes from his microwavable bag of popcorn he had eaten regularly.  Wayne Watson settled with Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc. for $7.2 million dollars for the damages to his lungs caused by the toxic buttery smell.  He won the lawsuit based on non-existent warning labels for diacetyl, an ingredient found in popcorn that gives the snack flavor.  Diacetyl, is linked with certain health conditions and is found in popcorn, margarine, and many baked goods.  It is even sometimes used to for bug repellent, good thing we are eating it.

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Hot Coffee, Tort Reform & the Civil Justice System

Hot Coffee by Flickr user licensed under elycefeliz Creative Commons
 I recently saw a documentary, Hot CoffeeIt discusses the idea of tort reform and bogus lawsuits. When one thinks of frivolous lawsuits, the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s comes to mind.  Stella Liebeck went to McDonald’s with her son.  She was the passenger. After purchasing her coffee in the drive-thru, her son parked the car.  Stella placed the coffee between her legs while she took off the lid.  The 180 degree coffee spilled on her cotton pants absorbing it through the skin. The result was severe 3rd degree burns. Look up pictures and you will be shocked at the damage. The trial uncovered hundreds of past cases and proved that there was no reason to hold the coffee at that temperature. The jury decided to give Ms. Liebeck a few minutes of McDonald’s national coffee sales for her pain & suffering. That figure amounted to roughly $3 million dollars. The verdict was then lowered substantially by the judge; a power passed by the state legislature.

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