Can California companies lawfully mistreat unpaid personnel?
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Can California companies lawfully mistreat unpaid personnel?

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2023 | Discrimination

California already boasts an impressive assortment of employee discrimination and harassment protections through various legal acts, such as:

  • Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Fair Chance Employment Act
  • Disability Discrimination Act
  • Family Rights Act
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • Veterans Employment Rights Act

Now, the state has taken the next step in employment law evolution by extending protections to volunteers and unpaid interns. These individuals fill critical roles in many industries, yet historically, they lack harassment and discrimination safeguards and solutions.

How does it protect unpaid workers?

The California governor signed AB 1443 into law in 2014. It gives volunteers, interns and other unpaid individuals the same protections paid employees enjoy. For example, it protects against discrimination based on:

  • Race, religion, gender and age
  • National origin and genetic information
  • Disability, pregnancy and marital status
  • Veteran and military status

Before this amendment, state laws only protected unpaid interns and volunteers enrolled in programs that specifically led to employment. The new code applies to all participants of such programs, regardless of whether it leads to a paid position.

What are some other benefits?

The law does not only protect against discrimination while working; it covers other activities, such as training events and meetings. That means any discriminatory act against interns, apprentices and volunteers is unlawful.

Internships and other programs are critical to those on specific career paths, like medical students and junior business associates. It is also a rite of passage for many entrepreneurs eager to get a foot into a tech industry.

Unfortunately, mean-spirited employers and co-workers can turn your internship into a nightmare. Now, you can use the law to protect yourself against discrimination or find a legal remedy, especially with guidance from someone who understand employment laws.