Internships are no longer perceived as an opportunity to grow your skills over the summer; they are a necessity for college students and graduates who want to stay competitive when entering the workforce. Most college students are not concerned about the disadvantages that come with internships, being paid or unpaid.
Many employees question the protections interns or unpaid volunteers have in the office. Currently, not all states offer protections for unpaid employees, and it puts interns and volunteers at higher risk for discrimination and harassment. But some states are addressing these concerns through new modifications to existing legislation.
No one deserves workplace discrimination
Before the 2000s, volunteer and intern positions were regarded as small portion of the workforce, but recently, internships increased with the competitive market of college students and graduates seeking work experiences. While most intern or volunteer positions are unpaid, they are slowly receiving the same protections of a paid position.
In California, the legislators modified the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, to extend protections to unpaid employees. The protections cover all business practices from interviews to training; it also defends a multitude of classes including: sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, marital status and more.
Only a few state laws extend protections to interns, so it’s important to refer to your state’s specific employment discrimination law. If you are interning in California, be aware of your protections and able to spot workplace discrimination in your office.