Historically, anti-discrimination and workplace harassment laws only protected wage employees. Interns and volunteers could be subjected to this behavior without any recourse. Not so in California. Last year California extended anti-discrimination and workplace harassment protections to unpaid interns, volunteers and apprenticeships. California is the third state to do so after New York and Oregon. This article will go over those protections and how it may apply to you or your children.
At one time the significance of volunteer and intern positions was regarded as being somewhat marginal. But, this is no longer true. Internships are becoming more and more important as college and graduate students look to gain knowledge and skills in the workplace. But regardless of pay status, every worker should have protections while on the job.
The new law modified the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination for other wage workers. The new law prohibits any employment practice that harasses or discriminates against interns. So these protections cover both pre and post employment opportunities. It extends protections for a multitude of “classes” including: sex, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, marital status and many, many more distinctions.
If you were an intern or volunteer and your employer or co-workers discriminated against you, then you may want to speak to a lawyer. Interns have the same protections as wage employees regarding discrimination and harassment protections. Although these protections have been part of California law for a period of time, it is possible that many volunteers and non-profits may not be aware of their existence. Ultimately, you are responsible for ensuring that your rights are protected. Being a volunteer does not diminish your right to a safe workplace.