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New Rights for Unpaid Interns in NY

In 2013, it was held that an unpaid intern working in New York City did not have a right to sue for sexual harassment because she was not an “employee” under the City’s Human Rights Law. Since the classification of “employee” did not apply to unpaid interns, such interns also did not have standing to sue in New York City administrative agencies. The effect of this narrowed classification eliminated unpaid interns from having standing to sue for sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination.

As of March 26, 2014, the New York City Council unanimously voted to extend the protections of New York City Human Rights Law for unpaid interns. Under the newly amended law, unpaid interns will also be protected from unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment similar to that of paid employees. The law is set to go into effect 60 days after being signed by the mayor.

The amendment now classifies an intern as “an individual who performs work for an employer on a temporary basis whose work: (a) provides training or supplements training given in an educational environment such hat the employability of the individual performing the work; and (c) is performed under the close supervision of existing staff.”

Though there is no such federal law or classification of interns, once signed and into effect, this amendment will serve to grant new rights for unpaid interns in New York City.

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