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Are Unpaid Interns And Temporary Employees Protected From Discrimination in California?

It is crystal clear that both employees and job applicants are offered quite a few discrimination protections under California’s employment laws, but what about unpaid interns and temporary employees?

Even though the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) proudly says that it is unlawful to discriminate against “any person” because of his or her protected discriminatory characteristic, it is not really how it is. Our Los Angeles workplace discrimination attorney Jeffrey Rager warns all those who earn money in California: the law protects only certain groups of workers in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state.

What if you are one of those who do not benefit from California’s legal protections under the state’s anti-discrimination laws?

Are temporary employees protected?

Generally, temporary employees – the so-called temps – are protected from discrimination and harassment in Los Angeles and other parts of California. However, it is not that simple…

In many cases, California courts may have a hard time determining who would be held responsible for unlawful discrimination if a temporary employee files a discrimination complaint. This is especially true when the temp has been hired by an agency that assigned him or her to work for another business.

Under California’s laws, the temp would be technically considered an employee of both the agency that hired him/her and the business he/she works for. In such cases, both the agency and the business may be held liable for discrimination in the workplace.

Are you confused about why a temporary employee is considered an “employee” per se under California’s employment laws? Our Los Angeles discrimination lawyer from Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers explains that temporary employees do not necessarily have to get paid by their agency or business to be classified as “employees.” Instead, the court would take into account the scope of employment control the agency and/or business holds over that employee.

What about unpaid interns?

Unpaid interns, who are usually students that work for employees to get college/school credit and/or professional experience, are not classified as employees under California’s laws (though there can be exceptions). Typically, unpaid interns cannot be considered employees because the employer never “hired” them in the first place.

But does it mean that they are not protected by California’s anti-discrimination laws? Wrong. In fact, when it comes to protection from workplace discrimination and harassment, unpaid interns have the same legal protections as regular employees.

Volunteers are not as lucky

If you are a volunteer in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California, and you have been discriminated against in the workplace, chances are you are not entitled to receive monetary compensation or sue the employer for workplace discrimination.

However, volunteers are protected from harassment in the workplace even though they are not considered employees. Note: a volunteer is someone who works for an employer without getting paid for the work.

Immediate family members are even less lucky

If you are someone who works for his/her spouse and you are being discriminated against in the workplace by your spouse, you are not protected by the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The same goes for individuals employed by their parents and children.

However, if your spouse, parent, or child is harassing you, you may be entitled to take legal action on the basis of criminal domestic violence. Speak to a Los Angeles discrimination attorney to find out more.

Are you a worker in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California and have questions regarding your legal protections under the state’s anti-discrimination laws? Contact Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers to get a free consultation. Call our offices at 310-527-6994 or complete this contact form.


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