When college students and other individuals seeking experience land unpaid internships at companies in their fields of choice, they are generally so overwhelmed by happiness at the opportunity that the unpaid nature of the positions does not bother them much. Internships can allow individuals to gain valuable experience, visibility and connections. However, as interns are not generally as protected from certain hazards under the law as employees are, they often find themselves to be in a uniquely vulnerable position.
Thankfully, state legislatures all over the country are working to protect unpaid interns from safety violations, discrimination, sexual harassment and other work-related ills. An assemblywoman from Berkeley recently announced that she plans to introduce legislation inspired by many of these aims when the California legislature resumes again in January.
The proposed bill would specifically protect unpaid interns from various kinds of workplace discrimination and harassment while on the job in California. If this legislation is passed, unpaid interns who have suffered these challenges would be able to hold their employers accountable for such harmful treatment.
At present, some states explicitly protect unpaid interns from workplace discrimination while others have ruled that unpaid interns are not protected under the law in the same ways that paid employees are. This new legislation would erase any doubt in the minds of California’s judges as to whether unpaid interns should be granted anti-discrimination workplace protections. As such, this legislation would be a welcome advancement in the rights of California workers who often toil tirelessly even though they receive no wages in return for their efforts.
Source: Capitol Alert, “Nancy Skinner preparing workplace protection bill for unpaid interns,” Dec. 4, 2013