Assembly Panel OKs Lampitt, Diegnan, Caride & Quijano Bills to Establish Protections for Interns

(TRENTON) – Two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Patrick Diegnan, Marlene Caride and Annette Quijano to statutorily establish protections for persons participating in internships in New Jersey advanced in the Assembly on Thursday.

One bill (A-3529), also known as the New Jersey Intern Protection Act, provides legal protections and remedies for persons engaged in internships with employers. It does so by adding interns to the provisions of the Law Against Discrimination, also referred to as the Worker Freedom From Employer Intimidation Act. The bill is sponsored by Assembly members Lampitt, Diegnan, Caride and Quijano.

“Many students seek internships to learn more about a particular field, gain experience and, potentially, jumpstart careers,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Interns are a part of the workforce and should be covered under the same protections as other employees.”

“Internships are an important part of vocational training for businesses and students,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Interns are an invaluable part of our workforce and should be protected under the law.”

“Interns are as vulnerable to discrimination as any other employee,” said Caride (D-Bergen, Passaic). “It is time to expand the law and protect those participating in internships throughout the state.”

Under all three acts, including this bill, an intern would be defined as an individual who performs services for an employer on a temporary basis whose work:
(1) Provides training or supplements training given in an educational environment such that the employability of the individual performing the work may be enhanced;
(2) Provides experience for the benefit of the individual performing the work;
(3) Is performed under the supervision of existing staff. The term “Intern” includes individuals without regard to whether the employer pays them a salary or wage.

An intern would not only have recognized and enforceable legal protections from various forms of employer discrimination, retaliatory acts, and intimidation relative to religious and political matters in the workplace, the state would also have the authority, under the “law Against Discrimination” to bring actions against employers.

In addition, nothing within the provisions of this bill would prevent an intern from seeking protections or receiving remedies applicable under federal law, other state law or the common law.

Another bill (A-2136), sponsored by Quijano, would prohibit employment-based discriminatory actions against persons engaged in unpaid internships. The bill would incorporate unpaid interns into the “Laws Against Discrimination.”

“Many businesses benefit from the work of interns,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The internship experience is crucial to the beginning of many careers and should not be taken advantage of by employers. Expanding current law and strengthening intern protection is overdue. This bill is a step in the right direction.”

The discriminatory practices that would be prohibited are based upon existing unlawful employment practices concerning employees of an employer as set forth in the aforementioned act. This bill would make it unlawful to discriminate against an unpaid intern on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, familial status, disability, nationality, sex, gender identity or expression or source of lawful income used for rental or mortgage payments. Such discrimination would include refusing to engage an individual as an unpaid intern, or to bar or discharge an individual from an unpaid internship. It would also include discrimination in the terms, conditions, or privileges of an unpaid internship.

Both measures were released by the Assembly Labor Committee.