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New York State Senate Introduces Legislation to Provide Employment Protection for Interns:

In response to a recent court decision that denied an unpaid intern any protection from workplace harassment, several New York state senators have introduced legislation that is intended to “provide unpaid interns the same civil rights protections as paid interns.” The legislation arises from two recent harassment cases, including one that our firm brought, as explained in the legislative history:

“In 2010 an unpaid intern, Lihuan Wang, had alleged that her boss at Phoenix Television’s New York bureau had grabbed her buttocks and tried to kiss her. The Manhattan Federal Court recently dismissed that claim stating that only paid workers are covered by the city’s human rights law.”

“Under the Federal Civil Rights Act, unpaid interns are not ’employees’ leaving them unprotected from unwanted sexual advances. Both Washington, D.C. and Oregon have passed an amendment to the law expanding discrimination and harassment protections to interns. This bill mirrors the Oregon statute to provide necessary protections to provide unpaid interns the same protections as paid employees.”

While Ms. Wang continues to litigate her other employment claims, this proposed legislation would help other interns in New York who are subjected to workplace harassment. Given the large number of interns in New York City, particularly in the media and finance industries, this legislation would be quite significant.