House Passes Bill to Protect Unpaid Federal Interns From Discrimination

Democrats push for a bill that will also protect interns in the private sector

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On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will protect unpaid federal interns from discrimination in the workplace.

Currently, paid interns are covered under anti-discrimination policies but there is no law that protects unpaid interns, leaving them without backup if they face discrimination based on race, sex, age or religion. Under the proposed legislation, interns without pay will be allowed to sue the government if their civil rights are violated.

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The bill, which is largely supported by Democrats, was passed in the Republican-controlled House Monday night and is now in the hands of the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans.

“Allowing this kind of behavior to go unchecked can have serious consequences on the lives and careers of young people interested in government service, and I am encouraged that the House passed our bill with unanimous support,” The Huffington Post reports Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) saying in a statement.

Cummings, along with Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), are also proposing two other bills that will extend civil rights protection to unpaid interns working in congressional offices and the private sector.

It’s no secret that employers rely heavily on interns to help with the operations of their business, but recently several companies have come under fire with discrimination lawsuits. Former interns at major companies like ICM, NBC Universal, Hearst Corporation and Fox Searchlight have filed lawsuits for unfair treatment. Employment law firm Outten & Golden, which advocates for workplace fairness, has even created the website UnpaidInternsLawsuit.com to offer assistance to any professional who held an unpaid internship within the last six years fight their case against discrimination.

So far, a few states including New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed laws to protect unpaid interns from discrimination and harassment.