On October 1, 2015, Connecticut became the sixth jurisdiction to prohibit discrimination against unpaid interns, joining Oregon, California, Illinois, Washington D.C., and New York. While this list is relatively short, it has grown significantly since Oregon passed the first bill of this kind in 2013, and more states will likely follow suit.
The Connecticut statute prohibits discrimination on the basis of an intern’s race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or physical or mental disability, and explicitly prohibits sexual harassment of interns or people seeking an internship. It also prohibits retaliation against interns who complain of discriminatory practices and opens the doors of the Connecticut Human Rights Commission, as well as the state courts, to receive such complaints.
To be able to file a complaint in federal court or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, unpaid interns must receive significant remuneration for their services, such as a pension, group life insurance, workers’ compensation, or access to professional certifications. The traditional benefits associated with internships, such as academic credit, practical experience, and scholarly research, do not suffice.