NJ high school and college interns as well as other young aspiring professionals working in New York City will now have the same anti-discrimination and harassment protections as all employees. On April 15, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed a bill protecting unpaid interns in NYC from sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. This was a clarification of the law, spurred by the case of Lihuan Wang.
Wang was a former unpaid intern for Phoenix Satellite Television. She sued after allegedly being harassed by her supervisor. However, her case was thrown out by Judge Kevin Castel, who said that she was not protected as an employee because she was an unpaid intern.
Prior to this case, the lack of protection for unpaid employees was an oft-overlooked loophole in the law. However, there are many activists groups who feel this law did not go far enough in its protections.
The law requires that an internship fit Labor Department Guidelines to qualify for any legal protections. According to these activist groups, many of the internships in the city would not fall under this criteria, leaving many interns unprotected or forced to prove the legitimacy of their internships.
The Guidelines include:
- The intern must work for a fixed period of time, after which there is no expectation of employment.
- The person performing the work is not entitled to any wages.
- The work supplements any training given in an educational environment and could potentially improve the intern’s ability to gain employment.
- The work performed does not displace regular employees.
- The work performed is conducted under the close supervision of existing staff.
With many Garden State students working in internships in New York City, this new law comes as a great benefit to the aspiring young professionals in New Jersey.
At Team Law, employment law attorneys are proven leaders in the industry. If you are involved in an employment dispute, work discrimination or sexual harassment, contact us today to discuss your case and set up a free consultation.