A twenty-one-year-old Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) intern collapsed from exhaustion and died after working for nearly three straight days. Moritz Erhardt had worked through normal business hours into the late night and morning, continuing until 6 am three days in a row, then collapsed in his shower and died, reports Jeff Cox at CNBC.
Bank of America's work pace
Banking interns are expected to keep up with grueling demands, fourteen hour days and 100 hour weeks. While he wouldn’t comment on the pace of work, Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) head of international communications John McIvor said, “If you think about it logically, what we’re trying to do is something that happens across all the big firms. We’re looking to get to know them better.”
Internships have come under more scrutiny this summer in the wake of multiple Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits from former unpaid interns. The issue is that under the FLSA people do not have the right to work under unfair conditions even voluntarily. The defense that people knew what they were getting them into wasn’t enough to shield Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758), Columbia, and other companies from class action lawsuits.
Moritz Erhardt's work in London office
Erhardt was working in Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)’s London office, so the incident isn’t subject to the same laws as it would be if it had happened in New York, but it should still contribute to the overall debate. If it’s true that a young person has worked himself to death in exchange for no (or for token) benefits, that shouldn’t be legal even with his consent.
Felicity Morse writing for The Independent quotes a former banking intern that “every intern’s worst nightmare is what’s called 'the Magic Roundabout' – which is when you get a taxi to drive you home at 7 am and then it waits for you while you shower and change and then takes you back to the office."
And it’s not just investment bankers using young people for cheap summer labor. Even President Obama runs an 11-week unpaid internship program that requires people to put in more than 45 hours per week, and the Daily Mail estimates that the U.S. government uses over 30,000 unpaid interns every summer across many departments.