NYC intern protection law one of few across nation

— New York City passed a bill in March protecting interns from sexual harassment, bringing the city in line with just two other places in the country: Oregon and Washington, D.C.

Unpaid interns in New York City were not protected against sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation in the workplace until now. Last year, a federal judge ruled that Lihuan Wang, 26, an unpaid intern who charged her boss at Phoenix Satellite Television’s New York bureau groped and tried to kiss her, couldn’t sue because she wasn’t technically an employee. The city’s bill closes that loophole.

Washington, D.C. passed the first intern protection bill in the country in 2009, after a college student filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer and was denied protection because she was not paid.

Oregon passed a protection law in June 2013, which gives unpaid interns legal recourse for sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation for whistleblowing.

California may soon become the second state to pass intern protections. California Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner introduced legislation in January. The law is still in committee.

By and large, however, unpaid interns across the country remain unprotected for workplace violations.

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