A couple months ago, we discussed the unique challenges that unpaid interns may face at work if and when they are subjected to sexual harassment. In that post, we talked about one case in particular involving a young intern who claimed that her permanent job offer was revoked after she refused the sexual advances of her supervisor. She tried to file a lawsuit against the company, but was told that she could not because she was not technically an employee.
This case, and many others just like it, has made headlines recently as it exposed a critical loophole in employment laws. Currently, many states, including California, do not have laws in place to protect unpaid workers from being sexually harassed at work. However, lawmakers are trying to address that oversight by proposing laws specifically addressing the rights of unpaid interns in the workplace.
Because they are not technically categorized as employees, unpaid interns have gone without the employment protections that are granted to others. But as one lawmaker put it, working for no money does not mean a person should also work without basic civil rights protections.
The proposed law will be announced in January 2014 and will specify that unpaid interns cannot be subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination at work.
In recent years, it has become more common for people to work in unpaid positions. The competitive job market and poor economy has put young people in a position to seek resume-building experiences, even if there is no salary involved. Rather than ignore their rights to a safe environment, this bill would specifically protect the significant number of men and women who work in California as an unpaid intern.
Source: The Huffington Post, “California Law Would Finally Protect Unpaid Interns From Harassment And Discrimination,” Lydia O’Connor, Dec. 10, 2013