Why it matters

In this issue of the newsletter, the focus of our review of new California laws shifts from leaves of absence to protection for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Addressing a hot topic found in courtrooms and legislatures across the country, California enacted AB 1443, providing legal protection for unpaid interns and volunteers. Essentially, the bill extended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to three new categories of workers: unpaid interns, volunteers, and individuals in apprenticeship training programs. Employers should review relevant policies, procedures, and training programs quickly as the new law took effect on January 1, 2015.

Detailed discussion

California joined a growing number of jurisdictions (including Oregon, Illinois, New York, and Washington, D.C. when Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1443 into law in September 2014.

  • Who is covered: Previously, the FEHA protected the rights of the following classifications: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical and mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, and military and veteran status. The bill added to this list unpaid interns, volunteers and individuals in apprenticeship training programs.
  • Who is exempt: The FEHA applies to employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and specified training programs and generally excludes religious associations or nonprofit corporations.
  • Scope of coverage: The newly added classes are now protected against “discrimination in the selection, termination, training, or other terms or treatment of that person” in an unpaid internship or another limited duration program to provide unpaid work experience for the person, as well as “the harassment of an unpaid intern or volunteer.”
  • Retaliation: Employers are also prohibited from retaliation, such as “to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because the person has opposed any practices forbidden under this part or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this part.”

To read AB 1443, click here.