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Sexual harassment protection not extended to unpaid interns

California readers may take an interest in a recent decision rendered in a New York federal district court. The court ruled that because they are not paid or considered an employee, an intern at a television broadcaster could not file a sexual harassment claim. The judge who heard the case made the ruling based on the fact that New York City's Human Rights Law's protections does not cover unpaid interns. The fact that the woman had not been paid for her work at the broadcaster excluded her from making a harassment claim.

According to the lawsuit, a bureau chief sexually harassed the intern in a hotel room where he had asked her to meet him on the pretext that he wished to speak to her about the possibility of a full-time position and her performance at work.

At one point, the two were alone in the hotel room, and the bureau chief made inappropriate advances on the intern. The intern rebuffed the man's advances, and he withdrew the potential offer of a permanent position with the company. The man was subsequently investigated by the company, and his position was terminated.

In 1994, a nursing student filed a lawsuit against a New York psychiatric hospital where she had been an intern. In that case, the court ruled that since she was not paid and did not receive any benefits, she could not be considered an employee and was not eligible for protection. No one should have to endure harassment in the workplace. An attorney with a background in employment law cases may be able to help protect the rights of an employee who has suffered from discrimination or sexual harassment at work.

Source: CNN Money, "Unpaid interns not protected from sexual harassment", Emily Jane Fox, October 09, 2013

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