New York state law now addresses intern sexual harassment
As college students or graduates look to gain experience in the workforce, they will learn one thing very quickly: It’s an incredibly competitive game to obtain and maintain gainful employment. As such, many young people might accept unpaid internships, which are often competitive too, in order to build their resumes.
Even though an unpaid intern isn’t compensated, it doesn’t mean that he or she is any less entitled to be treated with dignity and respect by their employers and coworkers. Now, New York state law has come closer to recognizing this.
As we reported in April of this year, New York City passed a law that afforded protections against sexual harassment for paid and unpaid interns. This citywide legislation was sparked by the case of a young woman who was repeatedly harassed during her unpaid internship, but had no legal recourse due to lack of coverage under existing laws.
Quite recently, the state legislature followed the lead of the New York City Council. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign a bill that provides interns with legal recourse if they are subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment. In addition the law also enumerates the classes protected against harassment, which are:
- Sexual orientation
- Military status
- Genetic characteristics
- Marital status
- Domestic violence victim status
- National origin
For interns, paid or not, this statewide legal protection has to come as a relief. It sends a signal to employers that sexual harassment is not okay, no matter what a worker’s employment status is. At the same time, it also empowers interns to take a stand. Now they do not have to accept degrading and discriminatory treatment as part of the job description.
Source: Village Voice, “New York State Just Made It Illegal To Sexually Harass Interns, Not That That’ll Stop Anybody,” Anna Merlan, July 19, 2014