Effective October 1, 2015, a new Connecticut law will provide unpaid interns, who technically may not be considered “employees,” with the same protections against discrimination and harassment as are already provided to full-fledged employees. As a result, interns will be able to file complaints with the CHRO and potentially pursue causes of action in court against the businesses for which they work.
In support of this law, the CHRO has reported that discrimination and harassment against interns has become a growing problem across the country; however, because of their legal status as something other than “employees” (as defined by most laws), they typically do not have access to the same legal protections and procedures as are enjoyed by employees. For example, in a highly publicized 2013 case out of New York an unpaid intern sued after her supervisor engaged in allegedly sexually harassing behavior. In dismissing her claims, the court held that the laws protecting employees from sexual harassment did not apply because unpaid interns are not employees. The new Connecticut law directly addresses this point.
Under the law (Connecticut Public Act No. 15-56), an intern is defined as an individual who performs work for an employer for the purpose of training and:
- the employer is not committed to hire the individual performing the work at the conclusion of the training period;
- the employer and the individual performing the work agree that the individual performing the work is not entitled to wages for the work performed; and
- the work performed meets five conditions:
- it supplements training given in an educational environment that may enhance the employability of the individual;
- it provides experience for the benefit of the individual;
- it does not displace any employee of the employer;
- it is performed under the supervision of the employer or an employee of the employer; and
- it provides no immediate advantage to the employer providing the training and may occasionally impede the operations of the employer.
The statute’s definition of employer is quite expansive and is not limited to employers having a specific minimum number of employees. Therefore, all employers conducting business in Connecticut would be wise to consider the applicability of the law on their operation and review their handbooks to ensure that policies and protections relating to discrimination and harassment apply to interns. Additionally, employers should address the implications of this new law during supervisor training.
Should you have any questions regarding the application of this law to your business, feel free to contact Brown Jacobson’s Employment Practices Group for further information.
 “Protecting Interns from Workplace Harassment and Discrimination.” June 5, 2015 [Available at] https://ctchro.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/protecting-interns-from-workplace-harassment-and-discrimination/
 Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-00218-PKC (S.D.N.Y. 2013).