In the U.S., a wide majority of states are not legally required to protect unpaid workers from discrimination and sexual harassment. Maryland and the District of Columbia are two of the few jurisdictions currently safeguarding unpaid interns from workplace harassment. Since nearly three-fourths of all unpaid workers are females and women are more commonly discriminated against, this lack of legislation may also be considered a gender issue.
Under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees are protected from certain forms of workplace discrimination, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitors these provisions. Unpaid workers are not covered by this law, however. The reason for this is that a worker must receive “significant remuneration” to be recognized as an employee, regardless of whether the company considers that person to be an intern or otherwise.
>In states that do protect workers from sexual harassment and discrimination, many victims do not come forward in an effort to seek justice due to fears of being reprimanded and other reasons. In states where anti-discrimination laws do not exist, victims have even less incentive to seek out justice, and this disparity only worsens the problem of harassment. Many lawmakers are unaware that their states do not have laws providing unpaid workers with remedies in the event of discrimination. As time goes on, an increasing number of lawmakers will hopefully acknowledge this issue and take the initiative to attempt to defend unpaid workers in their states.
Discrimination in the workplace can range from lewd comments and racial intolerance to unlawful retaliation and sexual harassment. Those who believe that they have been damaged by this type of unlawful behavior may wish to contact an employment law attorney in order to determine the legal recourse that may be available.