HARTFORD — Unpaid interns would receive workplace protections against sexual harassment and discrimination under legislation approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill, which cleared the Senate earlier this month, now heads to the desk of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The legislation is part of a national movement to protect the civil rights of unpaid interns, who are usually not covered by the laws governing paid employees.
“We are affording protection for those that are learning and working for free, the same protections as if they were paid,” said Rep. Dave Rutigliano, a Republican from Trumbull. “This is a good thing and a good bill.”
Rep. Craig Miner, a Republican from Litchfield, said many lawmakers were surprised to learn that unpaid interns weren’t covered under existing workplace prohibitions against harassment. “It was hard to imagine that the title of internship should have granted you less protection,” he said. “I always thought that protections under human rights and opportunities and all the other … watchdog organizations didn’t discriminate as to whether they could help you or they couldn’t help you based on whether you were an employee.”
Oregon and Illinois as well as several cities, including Washington, D.C., and New York City, already extend workplace protections to interns.
“Unpaid interns, by nature of their very status, are in particularly vulnerable positions with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination,” the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women wrote in testimony supporting the bill. “The power differential between an intern and supervisor is significant.”
The bill was amended by the Senate to make it clear that interns working for the state or any of its agencies would be included in these protections.