A recent court ruling in New York could impact future sexual harassment cases involving unpaid interns. A federal district court judge in New York ruled that unpaid interns are not considered "real employees" and do not have the right to file sexual harassment lawsuits against their employers.
The judge said that unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment because they are not protected under the New York Human Rights Law since they are unpaid interns and not paid employees.
The lawsuit being reviewed by the federal district court was filed by an unpaid intern working for Phoenix Satellite Television U.S. The intern filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer after she claimed he made sexual advances towards her when she worked for him in 2009.
The plaintiff said her former employer made unwanted sexual advances after asking her to come to his hotel room to discuss business issues. However, when she arrived at the hotel, he allegedly asked her about being beautiful and grabbed and kissed her while touching her buttocks, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiff said she left the hotel room immediately after the incident.
After reporting the incident to her company, the intern was fired after they investigated her allegations of sexual harassment.
This court ruling could impact future sexual harassment and other employment lawsuits in New York. Since the court ruled that unpaid interns are not protected by certain employment protection laws, it could be difficult for unpaid interns to pursue any employment lawsuits in the future based on this ruling.
Interns and employees in New York who have been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination should contact an employment law attorney to discuss their specific cases.
Source: USA Today, "Judge: Unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment," Emily Atteberry, Oct. 9, 2013