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Assembly Bill No. 1443: The Unpaid Interns Out There

Man overlooking skyline

Currently, California employees are protected and safeguarded from discrimination in the hiring and holding of employment positions by the California Fair Employment Housing Act, which explicitly prevents discrimination based on race, religious creed, national origin, disability, sex, marital status, gender, age, and sexual orientation among many others.

Now, Assembly Bill (“AB”) No. 1443 was approved to give those same rights and protections to those numerous career hopefuls and college graduates, who are looking for opportunities to get their “foot in the door,” by taking on unpaid internships or volunteer positions to gain valuable, but sometimes overstated “experience.”

The Bill

AB No. 1443 amended California Government Code Section 12940, to state that employers must protect against the discrimination of all unpaid interns in the selection, training, and treatment of an unpaid internship or some other limited duration program that provide unpaid work experience for that person. Additionally, all harassment of the unpaid intern or volunteer is unlawful employment practice.

The exact list of discriminating factors listed in the bill are the following:

  • Race;

  • Religious creed;

  • Color;

  • National origin;

  • Ancestry;

  • Physical disability;

  • Mental disability;

  • Medical condition;

  • Genetic information;

  • Marital status;

  • Sex;

  • Gender;

  • Gender identity/expression;

  • Age;

  • Sexual orientation; or

  • Military and veteran status.

What this means for you

As an employer seeking to minimize costs and maximize work productivity by using unpaid interns and volunteers, be cognizant that just because there are free services involved, doesn’t necessarily give you the right to treat them as you please. Use common sense in dealing with all of your unpaid interns and/or volunteers, ensuring that they are being treated similar to, if not better than your actual employees.


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