New York court declares unpaid interns can’t file sexual harassment charges against employers
By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 15:34 EDT
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed
Lihuan Wang’s sexual harassment suit against Phoenix Satellite
Television today because, it said, she was not a compensated employee.
Wang was two weeks into her internship at the Chinese-language media
company when, she alleges, her supervisor and bureau chief, Liu
Zhengzhu, asked her to accompany him to his hotel room after a business
lunch so he could drop off some things and talk about her performance.
Once in the hotel room, according to the complaint, he started to strip
and threw his arms around her while saying “Why are you so beautiful?
She further alleges that he then tried to kiss her, and squeezed her
buttocks, at which point Wang left the room. When she later asked about
her performance, the complaint asserts that Zhengzhu invited her to join
him on a trip to Atlantic City.
The court found that because Wang was an unpaid intern, she
could not bring a claim against Phoenix Satellite Television under the
New York City Human Rights Law. Unpaid interns aren’t covered by Title
VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, so they have to depend on local laws
to protect them. In this case, no such laws exist.
The court chided the New York City Council, saying that it is has had
multiple opportunities to fix this loophole, but has declined to do so.
Wang is still suing for failure to hire, but according to a lawyer who spoke to Bloomberg Businessweek,
“Phoenix denies that Wang ever applied for a position, that anyone was
ever hired for a reporter position in New York since Wang’s internship
ended, and that Phoenix engaged in any discriminatory activity.”
Edited by tatee - Oct 10 2013 at 12:24pm