by Ashley Harrison Sakakeeny
Employers in Connecticut should update their antidiscrimination and antiharassment policies to cover unpaid interns as a new state law becomes effective October 1.
The new law, Public Act 15-56, prohibits discrimination and harassment against interns much like current laws protect employees. It prohibits discrimination based on an intern’s race, color, age, and other protected characteristics. Also, the law makes it illegal to retaliate against an intern for filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment. It permits interns to file complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and, ultimately, in Connecticut superior court.
In addition to evaluating policies, employers are advised to consider training managers, employees, and interns on appropriate workplace conduct. Interns usually have little to no work experience before starting an internship, so it’s particularly important to educate them on appropriate workplace conduct.
The law defines “intern” as an individual who performs work for an employer for the purpose of training, provided:
- The employer isn’t committed to hire the individual at the conclusion of the training period.
- The employer and individual agree that she isn’t entitled to wages for work performed.
- The “work performed” meets five conditions in that it (1) supplements training given in an educational environment that may enhance the employability of the individual; (2) provides experience for the benefit of the individual; (3) doesn’t displace any employee; (4) is performed under the supervision of the employer or an employee of the employer; and (5) affords no immediate advantage to the employer providing the training and may occasionally impede the operations of the employer.
For more information on the intern protection law, see the August issue of Connecticut Employment Law Letter.