In Venezuela, labor and employment anti-discrimination rules do not extend to interns and volunteers unless their contracts explicitly acknowledge equal treatment. The Organic Labor Law (the “LOTTT”) provides protection for any individual under an employment relationship.
Therefore the issue here is to determine who is an employee and who is not. The LOTTT states that interns are not subject to an employment relationship; ergo they are not employees in the true and legal sense of the term.
Volunteers are also unprotected by law against labor and employment discrimination; since volunteers provide pro bono services and an employment relationship cannot exist unless the employee receives wages or a salary in exchange for what she or he does.
Therefore the logic of employment discrimination does not apply in these cases because interns, like volunteers, are workers who perform their duties subject to different conditions to those of actual employees (as the latter are defined by law).
However, there are certain guidelines that employers should be aware of when hiring candidates for their internship programs. For instance, the LOTTT requires the intern to be a student. Furthermore, providing compensation to interns is allowed and this will not alter the nature of the contract; however, payments should not be named “salary”. Employers do, nevertheless, have to be careful about the length of the internship: if an intern keeps working for the company immediately after the internship program ends, then the LOTTT understands that an employment relationship has been originated and that person will be protected against unequal employment treatment.
Do not forget that even though interns are not considered employees and the employment anti-discrimination legal framework does not protect them, they are entitled, as human beings, to civil rights and, as a result, employers cannot discriminate against an intern or volunteer based on her or his age, nationality, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation, gender, military status, disability and marital status, etc.
How to prevent problems?
The starting point is a well-written contract since it is easy to misrepresent the real nature of the relationship between the hiring entity and the intern. Remember, in the event of lawsuits by interns, the key is to demonstrate that employment legislation does not extend to them. Many employers fail to recognize this fact when they are in the act of signing an “employment” agreement with an intern. By understanding the applicable rules you can kill baseless claims at the outset.