In the past unpaid Interns were not always covered by discrimination laws because they were not necessarily considered employees under State or Federal Discrimination laws. . There can be a question whether an unpaid intern is an “employee” protected by Chapter 21 or Title VII, but in the future an intern’s status as an employee or non-employee might not matter for purposes of sexual harassment law. Under newly enacted Tex. Labor Code § 21.1065, an unpaid intern gains protection from sexual harassment as if she or he were an employee.
As an El Paso, Texas employment lawyer I don’t see this issue very often but I thought it worth reporting because it is one of the few bright spots for fired and injured workers in Texas. The more pervasive problem exist for individuals who are not employees because they are considered independent contractors. I have written extensively about this but suffice it to say that just because you are classified by your employer as an independent contractor does not mean that you are an independent contractor under the law. It is always important if you are wrongfully terminated or discriminated against that you see a competent board certified employment lawyer.