Labor and Public Employees Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT PROTECTING INTERNS FROM WORKPLACE HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Labor and Public Employees Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
To provide safety in the workplace by stopping the harassment of unpaid interns in the workplace.
Substitute Language (LCO 4880):
Adds protections from discrimination based on an intern's sexual orientation.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Senator Martin Looney testified in support of the bill. With a more competitive job market more people are seeking internships and many of them are unpaid. Undergraduates work in more than one million internships and as estimated half are unpaid. These unpaid interns are among the most vulnerable to discrimination and harassment because they have no protections for speaking out against bad employers. Everyone in the workplace should feel safe and protected and this proposal would go a long way to ensure that protection.
Bill Finch, Mayor, City of Bridgeport provided testimony in support of the bill. Only 4 states give interns the same rights as other employees. Most states consider that unpaid interns are not technically considered employees. Whether paid or unpaid it is unacceptable to be harassed or discriminated against at work.
Tanya Hughes, Executive Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities submitted testimony in support of the bill. Federal law provides that paid interns are considered employees and this commission interprets our current state law to cover unpaid interns as well. Courts in other state jurisdictions have ruled against unpaid interns. This bill will remove all doubt in the courts of Connecticut.
Carolyn Treiss, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women submitted testimony in support of the bill. Thank you to the committee for understanding the need to close this loophole in workplace harassment and discrimination law. A few states have made changes to their laws to provide protections to un paid interns. We urge the committee's support and welcome the opportunity to work with the committee on the specific language.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Connecticut AFL-CIO testified in support of the bill. Just because you are an unpaid intern you should not be the target of harassment, discrimination or an abusive superior.
Laura Callachan, Student Intern, Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund supports the bill. As someone who has been required to obtain yearly internships throughout my education, I can see the importance of protecting the rights of unpaid interns. Interns are such an important component Connecticut's workforce. They should be given the same protections as other employees. A four-year degree is not always the most important factor in hiring decisions; more employers have begun to place a higher level of importance on years of workplace experience. Students who work for school credit do not usually get paid or receive benefits but they should still have the protection under the law.
Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. submitted testimony in support of the bill. Unpaid interns work in organizations for college credits and to better their careers and gain real-world experience. Employers benefit form unpaid inters as a cost savings measure and by developing future potential employees. These interns face a lack of workplace protections and do not have the grounds or to file a civil complaint. We need to pass legislation like other states to protect these interns.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Pamela Bianca