You can’t be serious! A woman who was allegedly sexually harassed while working an unpaid internship cannot sue her harasser because she was unpaid.
When unpaid interns encounter sexual harassment at work, federal law tells them tough luck. Some states and cities have expanded discrimination and harassment definitions to interns, but that does not include New York City, where a district court dismissed a sexual harassment claim from a former intern at Phoenix Satellite Television, Lihuan Wang. The reason she is not protected, the court said, was because she was not a compensated employee.
In January, Wang filed a complaint that two weeks into her internship in 2010, her supervisor had allegedly invited Wang to his hotel room, where he put his arms around her, tried to kiss her, and squeezed her butt. She pushed him away and said that she was not considered for a job later because of it.
This is one of those moments where the current law doesn’t cut it and serious lobbying to make sure that states and cities nationwide, including New York City, pass legislation that protects unpaid interns. It’s already an abuse of free labor to have interns who are not compensated, but to then subject them to a hostile and abusive work environment without any method of redress should they be harassed seems beyond the pale.