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Do Paid and Unpaid Interns Have Civil Rights at Work?

From Sexual Harassment to Gender Discrimination, Interns' Rights Are Protected

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Interns have civil rights and are protected in the work place against discrimination.

Paid and unpaid interns have civil rights protecting them from sexual harassment and discrimination at work.

Interns Do Have Civil Rights

Paid and unpaid interns have certain rights that are protected under federal and state laws the same as full-time employees.

Paid interns are considered temporary employees and are protected by civil rights laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, sexual harassment laws, and antidiscrimination laws.

Interns that are not paid also have their civil rights protected by federal and state laws.

What to Do if Your Civil Rights as an Intern Have Been Violated

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or gender discrimination or some other civil rights violation, you need to let your employer know as soon as possible.

It is important that you make your complaint in writing so that it is well documented. Save emails, notes, and any other evidence that your civil rights have been violated -- do not give original evidence to your employer!

If you meet with a company representative to lodge a verbal complaint, even if they promise to address the situation, be sure to follow-up in writing everything that took place in the meeting.

If you were fired based on discriminatory practices, immediately write to the company with a formal complaint making your demands clear (i.e., you want your job back.) Send the letter with a signature requirement so you can prove it was received. Be sure to give the employer a time frame by which they have to respond before you will take legal action against them.

Why Documenting Civil Rights Violations is Important

The more you document what happened, including dates, times, and name(s) of people involved, the better your chances are of asserting your civil rights if necessary. If you do not document events carefully, it will be your word against the company and you will have a hard time establishing that you have a case.

An employer can only be held accountable for civil rights violations when:

  • The employer knew about the violation (i.e., it was reported or otherwise documented); or
  • It was reasonable that the employer could or should have known about the violations.

If you cannot resolve the issues on your own, contact an attorney who specializes in civil rights law or employee rights. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation and only charge you a fee if they take your case and get compensation for you.

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