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house Bill H.R. 3231

Do Federal Unpaid Interns Need Protection from Harassment and Discrimination at Work?

Argument in favor

While current anti-discrimination laws protect unpaid federal interns, they aren’t explicitly mentioned in the law. That’s not good enough, as federal interns should know beyond a doubt that they can’t be discriminated against.

“The largest low-wage employer in this country is the federal government.” []
Like (230)
Steven's Opinion
An employee by any other name is still an employee. Let's protect them all equally.
Like (59)
Ivan's Opinion
Everyone needs protection from employer..
Like (17)

Argument opposed

This legislation would change nothing at all with respect to how anti-discrimination laws protect unpaid federal interns. They’re already protected by those laws and policies, Congress doesn’t need to spend time on this.

BTSundra's Opinion
This bill does nothing, and it explicitly states it does nothing. We shouldn't even be voting on this in the first place.
Like (7)
Chief's Opinion
Existing law protects these people. A better idea is to ensure the prosecution of any govt employee (to include a President) that abuses his/her position to have sex with these interns.
Like (5)
Thomas's Opinion
Federal unpaid interns are already protected under current law. I want my congressmen to focus on bills which solve America's most pressing issues.
Like (3)

What is House Bill H.R. 3231?

This bill would extend protections against workplace harassment and discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability to unpaid interns who work in the federal government.

While paid interns are already treated as employees and the federal government prohibits discrimination in the workplace through existing laws and policies, unpaid interns are not explicitly covered.


Unpaid federal interns, federal agencies, and the Dept. of Justice.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3231

The CBO estimates that this legislation could affect direct spending by federal agencies, but that any such changes would be negligible.

More Information

Of Note: According to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a sexual harassment case filed by an unpaid intern was dismissed in 1997 because the courts concluded that interns couldn’t be considered employees for the purpose of employment law.

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced this bill to ensure that unpaid interns receive the same protections against discrimination as employees:

“Unpaid interns should be afforded the same protections from sexual harassment, retaliation, and discrimination as employees. My legislation will close loopholes in the current law to ensure that all unpaid interns have the necessary safeguards to protect them in the workplace.”

This bill was passed unanimously by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has three Democratic cosponsors in the House.


Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user USDAgov)


Federal Intern Protection Act of 2016

Official Title

To amend title 5, United States Code, to protect unpaid interns in the Federal Government from workplace harassment and discrimination, and for other purposes.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed January 12th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 414 Yea / 0 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedJuly 28th, 2015

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