U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Bill to Protect Interns against Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, today introduced the Federal Intern Protection Act to make it illegal to discriminate against or sexually harass unpaid interns in federal government agencies. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives, which passed the full House on January 11, 2016.

“Unpaid interns play a critical role in federal agencies and should be afforded the same protections against discrimination and harassment as employees,” said Senator Baldwin. “This commonsense measure will close loopholes in the current law to ensure that all unpaid interns have the necessary safeguards to protect them in the workplace.”

The measure would protect unpaid interns who work at federal agencies by:

  • Defining “intern” as someone who performs uncompensated voluntary service in an agency to earn credit awarded by an educational institution or to learn a trade or occupation;
  • Extending workplace protections against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns; and
  • Closing existing loopholes that permit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin as prohibited by section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age as prohibited by Sections 12 and 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and handicapping condition as prohibited in section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Presently, there are no federal laws or safeguards that protect unpaid interns against sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, handicapping condition and other factors.

A number of unpaid interns who have confronted discrimination and harassment have tried unsuccessfully to pursue legal action. Although some interns do receive compensation and stipends, most are unpaid and work in exchange for academic credit from their educational institution.