Unpaid Interns Not Protected by Sexual Harassment Laws

The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg know that sexual harassment is pervasive, harmful, and it can appear in many forms.

From continued, unwanted flirting to inappropriate and undesired touching, sexual harassment in the workplace is demeaning, wrong and an insult to decency. Having sexual harassment in the workplace creates a hostile work environment that is uncomfortable and scary for vulnerable employees, and, as such, laws have been passed and cases have been decided with the intent of protecting would-be victims and compensating individuals who have already been victimized by the sordid behavior.

In an unfortunate but expected decision, a New York Court has ruled – and reaffirmed the precedent – that unpaid interns are not protected from sexual harassment laws because they aren’t technically employees. In this incident, a Syracuse University graduate student who interned at a TV broadcasting company filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company after being continually sexually harassed by her supervisor. Despite being the recipient of vile comments and inappropriate groping, this young lady was told by a court that her claim was invalid because, as an intern, she is not protected under sexual harassment laws.

Is this legal problem specific to our northern friends? Absolutely not. Just like sexual harassment itself, this legal loophole is one to which the vast majority of the United States adheres. According to federal court documents, a U.S. district court dismissed in 2007 an intern’s sexual harassment lawsuit against her former company on the grounds that she was ineligible for protection under sexual harassment laws given her status as an unpaid intern. In other words, not only did she receive no compensation for her work, but she also was prohibited from seeking justice following sexual harassment.

The legal problem is so ubiquitous that, according to this article from CNN, only one state in the nation, Oregon, has passed legislation making sure that unpaid interns are afforded the same protection from sexual harassment that paid employees and interns receive.

As you can see, this ruling out of New York is just the most recent example of this type of miscarriage of justice. As we all know, unpaid interns often work as hard (and sometimes harder) than their paid colleagues. It is only fair that they should be afforded the same legal protections that their coworkers are granted.

If you have been wronged, whether by an individual or a large corporation, and you have suffered as a result of the wrongdoing, please reach out to us at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg for a free consultation. Give us a call at 561.266.9191 or email us at daronberg@build.simple.biz.

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