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21-year-old intern dies after working a 72-hour shift

Internships, paid or otherwise, are supposed to serve as an important stepping stone for a young professional's career. They earn valuable experience in a working environment and they can make key networking connections during this time. At least, that's the selling point. However, in recent years, the internship (especially the unpaid internship) has come under scrutiny as exploiting young talent for cheap labor. More specifically, the unpaid internship is a problem because they are not technically "employees" and, thus, they have no harassment protections.

In other words, the idea of internships is going through a tumultuous time right now -- and a recent incident with a Bank of America intern may fuel the fire.

A 21-year-old man working as an intern for the bank at a London office died after he supposedly worked for 72 hours without sleeping. According to a report, the intern died of natural causes, but many people are understandably connecting the death with his unhealthy (and perhaps forced) 72-hour shift.

Bank of America has since shifted some of its policies regarding interns and employees and the number of hours or workdays they put in; but the damage has been done and the questions are being asked.

So what does this all mean? Well, even though it happened across the pond, this story raises big questions. What exactly is "work-life balance" and how are companies striving to ensure their employees achieve such balance? Are employers really concerned about the health and wellbeing of their employees? Are they following all the rules and regulations that deal with an employee's rights regarding medical leave?

Source: Reuters, "Bank of America seeks to ensure work limits after intern's death," Jan. 10, 2014

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