The “New Jersey Intern Protection Act;” provides legal protections and remedies for persons engaged in unpaid internships with employers.

NJEA supports S-539 (Gill).  This bill would provide interns, including student teachers, with legal protections under the “Law Against Discrimination,” the “Conscientious Employee Protection Act,” and the “Worker Freedom From Employer Intimidation Act.”

Internships play a vital role in a prospective employee’s workplace training.  Interns learn valuable office and workplace skills that can be transferred to a future paid position.  Employers reap the benefit of free or low wage labor to offset the workload and assist in administrative functions.  Interns who earn little or no compensation should still be protected under the law from things like religious, race and gender discrimination.  These are basic protections that are not currently afforded to a growing population of workers in our state and nation.

In New Jersey, we require prospective teachers who go through the traditional certification process to conduct as much as a full semester of classroom teaching, or approximately 15 weeks, under the supervision of a certified teacher.  This translates into between 500 and 600 hours of unpaid observation and teaching in a classroom.  Some programs even require more.  These are valuable hours for a student teacher, who learns how to put his or her teaching education into practice.  During these countless hours, our student teachers should not be deprived basic protections under the law, which are afforded to every other employee working in the same building.

New Jersey would not be the first governing body to safeguard interns and student teachers.  In April, New York City passed an ordinance to afford these protections to hundreds of thousands of individuals who flock to the financial capital for paid and unpaid internships every year.

For these reasons, NJEA and its affiliate, the New Jersey Student Education Association, support this legislation to ensure student teachers and all interns have basic protections in the workplace.

NJEA urges you to vote yes on S-539.