Many organizations use interns who are not paid for their time or their services. Often, these organizations are corporations who are allowing interns to work for them as part of their college courses; studies have shown that roughly 50 percent of college graduates have also done internships. On top of that, colleges themselves will often offer internships to their students without pay. For example, this is done at Arizona State University.
One of the potential issues with interns is that they may not have all of the same protections from discrimination, sexual harassment and the like that employees would get. The Civil Rights Act only protects actual employees who are paid, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also only focuses on paid workers.
Some places have noticed this loophole and done what they can to eliminate it with other regulations. For instance, in Washington D.C., Oregon and New York City, interns are now protected when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. In California, the State Assembly passed a similar bill, but it is not yet a law since it has not gone through the Senate. That means that interns in California may not yet have the protections that they need.
It is incredibly important for all college students and anyone else who is thinking about taking an internship to know what rights they have, even if they are not employees. In California, they should keep an eye on this latest bill to see if it passes the Senate, giving them more protection in the state than they would get in most other places.
Source: Truth Dig, “Unpaid Interns Can Collect Back Pay Without Hurting Their Careers” Blair Hickman, Jul. 23, 2014