Do Unpaid Interns Have Employment Rights?

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By accepting a role as an unpaid intern at a company, you may feel less like an employee and more like a volunteer. With this, you may assume that you do not receive the same federal and state protections as a full-time employee at the company does. However, you must understand that in some aspects, you may be sorely mistaken. Follow along to find out whether unpaid interns have employment rights and how one of the proficient New Jersey employment lawyers at The Vigilante Law Firm, P.C. can work to ensure your protection.

Do unpaid interns have state employment rights?

Firstly, unpaid interns are protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), specifically with discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

Namely, NJLAD prohibits discrimination and bias-based harassment based on actual or perceived protected classes. Such protected classes include race or color, religion or creed, national origin or ancestry, sex or sexual identity, gender identity or expression, and more. Further, this law prohibits discrimination and bias-based harassment in all aspects of employment. For example, it is illegal for you to be an unpaid intern if another intern, of a different protected class but with the same job responsibilities, gets compensated with an hourly wage.

In turn, NJLAD also prohibits retaliation against an unpaid intern who complains, reports, or cooperates in an investigation of alleged discrimination or bias-based harassment in the workplace. For example, it is illegal for an unpaid intern to be denied a permanent position simply because they reported a sexual harassment incident they were involved in or witnessed to the company’s Human Resources department.

As an unpaid intern, what should I do if my privileges are violated?

Even if you are not getting paid, you may be grateful for your internship opportunity and the doors it may open for you. However, this does not mean that you should remain silent when you are made a victim of, or even if you are a witness to, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.

Instead, you must report such issues immediately. You may file these reports with your company’s Human Resources department and the educational institution that got you into this internship program, if applicable. In addition, if you want to pursue legal action against this negligent employer, you may file a report with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights and the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if applicable.

In conclusion, you must remember that the statute of limitations for an employment discrimination or retaliation claim is two years in the state of New Jersey. So before it is too late, you must retain the services of one of the talented New Jersey employment lawyers. Contact our Vigilante Law Firm, P.C. office today.

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