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Goldman Sachs limits intern hours, urging them to 'be interesting'

Goldman Sachs and other employers are trying to make life easier for young employees by curbing excessive hours worked. 

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    Outside Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City.
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Goldman Sachs is putting a limit on the time interns can spend in the office, saying that they can't work between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. 

Goldman is one of several Wall Street banks that have been trying to improve working conditions for junior staff by attempting to cut down on hours worked by interns and young employees in entry-level jobs. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase have all announced new scheduling policies in the past two years encouraging young employees, many of whom work seven days a week, to take at least a few days a month off. 

“We want them to be challenged, but also to operate at a pace where they’re going to stay here and learn important skills that are going to stick,” said David M. Solomon, co-head of the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs, when the bank's schedule change was announced in 2013. “This is a marathon, not a sprint."

The new policies come after the death of Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt in 2013, which may have been partially caused by fatigue from working excessive hours. Following Erhardt's death, his development officer at the bank, Juergen Schroeder, told NBC News there is often a competitive pride among interns to see who can work the longest hours, although the long hours are not required.

"The way the bank assesses candidates is not by hours but by the qualities and skills they bring to the bank," Schroeder said. 

The prototypical Wall Street intern is either a college junior working as an analyst or a business school student serving as an associate, according to Reuters. Goldman currently employs over 2,900 summer interns. 

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein told the firm’s interns in a fireside chat that it is important for them to pursue interests outside of work, rather than completely immersing themselves in finance.  

“You have to be interesting, you have to have interests away from the narrow thing of what you do,” Blankfein said. “You have to be somebody who somebody else wants to talk to.”

The treatment of interns has been a source of controversy in recent years, as several lawsuits have been filed by interns claiming their employers took advantage of them. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures broke federal labor law and New York state minimum wage laws when it employed two production interns, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, on the film "Black Swan" without paying them. Later that year, two former interns for W Magazine and The New Yorker sued Condé Nast, claiming they were paid less than minimum wage for doing work the magazines would have had to pay someone else a full salary to do. 

Sonia Marciano, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, says the changes made by Goldman and similar companies have already had an effect on the way her students think about their future jobs. 

“My students, men and women, talk much more openly about an expectation of work-life balance," Marciano told The New York Times. “It’s a shift that seems pretty real and substantial.”

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