Two weeks ago we wrote about the (in)famous decision of a federal judge in NYC who recently ruled that an unpaid female intern who alleged sexually harassment by a company higher-up was not an “employee,” and therefore had no claim for hostile work environment under the New York City Human Rights Law (N.Y. City Admin. Code § 8-101 et seq.) (“NYCHRL”).
The Court held that “The plain terms of [the city law] § 8-107(1)(a) make clear that the provision’s coverage only extends to employees, for an ‘employer’ logically cannot discriminate against a person in the “conditions or privileges of employment” if no employment relationship exists.
Indiana University Law professor Deborah Widiss said that “It reveals a very important gap [in the harassment laws] that I think needs to be addressed.” We noted that this “loophole” was cited by city and state politicians who promised remedial legislation.
Now it has been reported that state legislators introduced a bill which would “fill the gap” by prohibiting employment discrimination against unpaid interns on the basis of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, and military status, and explicitly prohibit any “conduct of a sexual nature” toward an intern. The lead sponsor of the legislation called interns an “extremely vulnerable class of workers” and stated that “there needs to be universal agreement and swift action when the Legislature returns to Albany in January.”