PA 15-56—sSB 428

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT PROTECTING INTERNS FROM WORKPLACE HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION

SUMMARY: This act prohibits an employer from discriminating against or sexually harassing interns, thus giving interns protections similar to those of paid employees.

It defines an “intern” as, among other things, a person working for an employer (1) who the employer does not pay upon mutual agreement of both parties, (2) who the employer is not committed to hiring, and (3) where the internship is designed to supplement training that may enhance the intern's employability. The act defines an “employer” as one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, corporations, limited liability companies, business trusts, legal representatives, or any organized group of persons engaged in business in the state, including the state and its political subdivisions, who provide a position for an intern.

The act makes a violation of its provisions a “discriminatory practice” under state human rights law, which means a person can file a complaint of an alleged violation with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and pursue a civil action in Superior Court.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

DISCRIMNATION AND RETRIBUTION

The act prohibits discrimination based on an intern's race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability, or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness. The act's prohibition covers hiring, firing, and advertising for internships. The act also notes that the prohibitions do not apply in the case of bona fide occupational qualifications or need. (This provision reflects existing anti-discrimination law. )

The act also bans an employer from firing or taking other discriminatory steps against an intern for opposing any discriminatory employment practice or filing a complaint or testifying in a proceeding about a discrimination complaint.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The act bans sexual harassment of interns and anyone seeking an internship. It defines “sexual harassment” as any unwanted sexual advances or any other conduct of a sexual nature when:

1. submission to the conduct is made a condition of the internship;

2. submission to or rejection of the conduct by an intern or internship applicant is the basis for workplace decisions affecting the intern; or

3. the conduct substantially interferes with an intern's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

CONDITIONS OF INTERN WORK SITUATION

In addition to (1) the employer not committing to hiring the intern and (2) both parties agreeing that the intern will not be paid for his or her work, the act specifies other conditions of an intern's working situation. The intern's work must:

1. supplement training given in an educational environment that may enhance the intern's employability,

2. provide experience for the intern's benefit,

3. not displace any of the employer's employees,

4. be performed under the employer's supervision or that of an employee of the employer, and

5. provide no immediate advantage to the employer providing the training and may occasionally impede the employer's operations.

OLR Tracking: JM: JKL: PF: bs