A bill to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 9. The bill expands upon Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and makes California the third state in the nation to provide this type of protection. Inspiration for the bill came after a ruling by a New York court in 2013 which held that unpaid interns were not protected under Title VII because they are not employees.
In that case, a Syracuse University student claimed that she was groped and kissed by a supervisor and then retaliated against after refusing the unwanted advances. In addition to adding protection against sexual harassment, gender discrimination against interns is outlawed. California joins New York, Oregon and Washington, D.C., in extending gender discrimination protection to interns.
The woman who introduced the bill issued a statement saying that no one should have to give up their civil rights simply because they are not getting paid to work. A survey conducted in 2008 by the National Association of Colleges and Employees revealed that half of all college students held internships. Furthermore, a 2012 study from Intern Bridge revealed that the majority of interns are women.
Whether a worker is paid or works as an intern, he or she is protected from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may take the form of suggestive jokes, inappropriate touching or quid pro quo arrangements. An employment law attorney may be able to help a worker who has been harassed seek relief in his or her case. It may be possible to win compensation for lost wages or win reinstatement for those who were terminated.
Source: SFBay.ca, “Unpaid interns now guarded from sexual harassment”, Hannah Albarazi, September 14, 2014