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California legislator wants law protecting unpaid interns

In October, a court in New York ruled that unpaid interns were not protected from sexual harassment because they are not technically considered employees. This was the ruling in a case brought by an unpaid intern against her supervisor. In that suit, the student at Syracuse University claimed that she was harassed while interning at Phoenix Satellite Television US.

Nancy Skinner, an assemblywoman in California, has announced that she wants protection for unpaid interns from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. She plans to introduce such a bill in January. The legislator says that young people who work as unpaid interns do so in order to make contacts and build their resumes in what is become a more competitive job market every day. As they do so, she says, "Employers owe them a safe and fair workplace."

Currently, Oregon is the only state that ensures unpaid interns are protected from discrimination. The state passed that law in June. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act doesn't specifically put unpaid interns under such protection and federal laws are just as vague.

Assemblywoman Skinner hopes that this bill - should it become law - will be especially beneficial to women. According to the National Association of colleges and Employers, 77 percent of unpaid interns are women.

Those who are subjected to workplace discrimination may have legal remedies available. Such discrimination may include actions based on an employee's age, race, gender, sexual preference or religion. An experienced employment law attorney can explain the options that may be available, including possible compensation for an employer's discriminatory actions.

Source: Huffington Post, "California Law Would Finally Protect Unpaid Interns From Harassment And Discrimination" Lydia O'Connor, Dec. 11, 2013

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