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Interns Have Rights- Respect Those Rights, or Pay Dearly

As of June 2014, the fortunes of New York City interns changed, thanks to Mayor de Blasio signing into law, an amendment to the Administrative Code of New York City, in relation to the discrimination against interns- whether or not the interns are paid. This is a huge sign of progress for interns, who often were exploited, and had no recourse. New York State has now followed in the footsteps of New York City; Governor Cuomo signed into law, a bill that provides interns (unpaid or not) rights in the workplace.

The current development is thanks to the courage of an unpaid intern, who brought a lawsuit against a news agency, because she was allegedly sexually harassed by her supervisor. (The case was initially thrown out by a federal judge, on the grounds that the intern had no standing to sue under the human rights statutes, on account of the failure to qualify as an employee.)

Ultimately, thanks to this courageous and tenacious intern, interns in New York City and State may enjoy rights similar to those of employees, even if they are unpaid.

Employers should be mindful of the rights of interns, and have anti-discrimination training sessions in the workplace, on a regular basis. An employee handbook should clearly lay out the procedure for lodging a complaint of discrimination/harassment/retaliation. Employers should treat the interns equitably, i.e., employers should respect their legal rights. In other words, treat interns as if they are employees!

Interns should be aware that they have rights in the workplace, and any employer that makes them feel that they have to put up with unlawful treatment in order to receive a recommendation, or receive credit, is engaging in wrongdoing and the interns must seek legal advice to put an end to this conduct.

There’s never been a better time to be an intern in the Empire State and the Big Apple!