Last week, the New York City Council voted in favor of granting greater workplace protections to workers who are not paid for their services. The vote is a major win for the city’s interns, who frequently work only for class credit or nothing at all. The bill offers these employees the right to file a claim for sexual harassment that has occurred in the workplace.
Of course, to many people, it may seem odd and even appalling that this protection was not in place already. However, under federal law, employees are defined as individuals who are paid for their work, excluding the many unpaid interns across the country. Although federal law remains the same for now, New York City has redefined what it means to be an intern and what it means to be an employee.
Essentially, the City Council decided that wages will no longer impact whether a person is considered an employee, and therefore, whether he or she can file a claim for sexual harassment.
The passing of this bill is a huge step forward for employee rights in New York City. Interns are often treated as less valuable than their full-time counterparts by both their employers and the law. No person, however, should have to suffer through sexual harassment and then be unable to hold the harasser accountable. Fortunately, this new law ensures that many New York City employees will now be able to seek justice if they are treated unfairly or inappropriately by a co-worker, supervisor or other colleague.
Source: Huffington Post, “Interns Are Now Protected Against Sexual Harassment In NYC,” Blair hickman, March 28, 2014