Legislation by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination was approved today by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a unanimous vote. AB 1443 will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Interns should not have to give up their basic civil rights just because they are willing to forgo pay,” Skinner said. “Interns deserve the same legal protection against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”
Assembly Bill 1443 would explicitly ban workplace sexual harassment and protect unpaid interns from discrimination, including discrimination based on gender.
Neither state nor federal law explicitly protects unpaid interns from sexual harassment. Last year, a federal district court in New York ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – which protects employees from workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment - does not apply to unpaid interns because an unpaid intern is not an “employee.” The New York case involved a Syracuse University student who claimed she was sexually harassed, kissed and groped by a supervisor at her media company internship who later retaliated against her for rebuffing his sexual advances.
“The recession has forced young people to rely on these unpaid positions to build resumes and contacts in an incredibly competitive job market,” Skinner said. “Employers owe them a safe and fair workplace.”
According to a 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 50 percent of graduating students held internships, up from the 17 percent shown in a 1992 study by Northwestern University. Women are significantly more likely than men (77 percent versus 23 percent) to be engaged in unpaid internships, according to a 2012 survey of college students by Intern Bridge, a consulting firm specializing in college recruitment.
—Information provided by the Office of Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)