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California Law Protects Unpaid Interns and Volunteers from Harassment and Discrimination

California has become the third state in the country, after New York and Oregon, to ban sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace directed toward unpaid interns. 

The new law (AB 1443) extends workplace harassment and discrimination protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to unpaid interns, volunteers, and individuals in apprenticeship training programs. It will go into effect January 1, 2015. 

The new law amends current law (Government Code section 12940(c) and (j)) to make it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against or to harass an unpaid intern or volunteer on the basis of any legally protected classification unless an exception applies, such as a bona fide occupational qualification. 

The following classifications are protected in California: race, religious creed, religious observance, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, ancestry, marital status, medical condition as defined by applicable state law, disability, genetic information, military service, military and veteran status, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. Employers should consider reviewing their policies for compliance with the recent changes in California law. 

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Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 275
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About this Author

Jonathan A. Siegel, Labor, Employment Attorney, Jackson Lewis, Law Firm
Principal

Jonathan A. Siegel is one of the founding Principals of the Orange County, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He practices before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board, state and federal agencies and courts.

Mr. Siegel also provides advice and counsel regarding labor and employment law with respect to various issues ranging from wage and hour law, reduction in force, WARN Act, discipline, leave management and harassment and discrimination issues. Mr. Siegel defends employers regarding different varieties of wrongful...

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