On April 14, 2015, an act protecting interns in Maryland from employment discrimination officially became law. As of October 1, 2015, employers are prohibited from discriminating against interns with respect to the terms, conditions or privileges of their internships (including offering and terminating internships), on the basis of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Among other things, the law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for interns with disabilities, and prohibits retaliation against interns for pursuing their rights under the law. The text of the law can be found here.
The new law applies to any “intern,” defined as an individual whom: (1) the employer has not committed to hiring at the conclusion of the internship; (2) is not entitled to wages for the work performed, and (3) performs work that: (i) supplements training given in an educational environment; (ii) provides experience for the benefit of the individual; (iii) does not displace regular employees; and (iv) is closely supervised by existing staff.
The law states that it does not add interns to the definition of employee in the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), such that an intern would be entitled to any relief provided under FEPA. Instead, it provides separate protections. The law does not create a private cause of action for interns. Instead, interns will have access to the employer’s internal procedures for investigating discrimination. If the employer does not have an internal procedure, interns may file a complaint with the Maryland Commission of Civil Rights for nonmonetary administrative remedies.