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House Passes Cummings Bill to Strengthen Protections for Interns

May 17, 2017
Press Release

House Passes Cummings Bill to Strengthen Protections for Interns

 

Washington, D.C. (May 17, 2017)—Today, the House passed a bill introduced by Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings to strengthen protections for interns. H.R. 653, the Federal Intern Protection Act would:

 

  •          define “intern” as someone who performs uncompensated voluntary service in an agency to earn credit awarded by an educational institution or to learn a trade or occupation;

 

  •          extend workplace protections against discrimination and harassment to unpaid interns; and

 

  •          close existing loopholes that permit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin as prohibited by section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age as prohibited by Sections 12 and 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and handicapping condition as prohibited in section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

 

Below are Ranking Member Cummings’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the House floor today:

 

 

 

Floor Statement

Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings

 

H.R. 653, the Federal Intern Protection Act

 

May 17, 2017

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Gentleman for yielding me time.

 

The bill before us—the Federal Intern Protection Act—would close a loophole in federal employment law that currently leaves unpaid interns open to discrimination and sexual harassment with no legal recourse.

 

Last year, the Oversight Committee held a hearing at which we heard testimony about sexual harassment and retaliation in an EPA regional office.

 

During the hearing, both Chairman Chaffetz and I expressed our disgust at the exploitation of these young women and demanded action to prevent this abuse in the future.

 

Unfortunately, the act of harassing unpaid interns on the basis of race, religion, age, or in this case, sex is not prohibited by federal law.

 

Under current law, victims rely on the discretion of managers to prevent this behavior, something that does not always occur.

 

As one witness testified before our Committee, and I quote:

 

“Even after finding out about the numerous harassment victims, the direct reporting manager continued to feed the harasser a steady diet of young women.”

 

We saw at our hearing that allowing this kind of behavior to go unchecked can have serious consequences on the lives and careers of those who are interested in government service.

 

Many interns are willing to work for the federal government without receiving any pay.  But we must protect them from this kind of despicable behavior.

 

Our bill will afford federal interns protections in the same manner and to the same extent as federal employees.

 

I want to thank the Chairman for moving this bill expeditiously through our Committee—where it was adopted unanimously—and for bringing it to the floor today.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I yield back the balance of my time.

115th Congress