New York is the fourth jurisdiction in the nation to make it illegal for employers to engage in any retaliatory or otherwise illegal employment practices against unpaid interns or those applying for unpaid internships. The other three jurisdictions to have such employment discrimination laws are Washington, D.C., New York City and Oregon. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Act into law on July 22, and it took effect immediately.
The Act defines an intern as anyone who is partnered with an employer for the purposes of training. It specifies that an intern is someone who is not guaranteed employment after the training period ends, someone who may not earn wages and someone who works closely with staff to supplement his or her own experience without displacing any other staff members.
A New York state senator introduced the legislation in October 2013 after a federal district judge ruled that those who are not paid do not get to enjoy the rights and protections of employees. The bill amends the New York State Human Rights Law in addition to undoing the judge’s ruling. However, the bill does state that such protections do not establish employee-employer relationships between companies and interns.
Employees are guaranteed certain rights under federal and state employment laws. These laws protect employees from retaliation for reporting illegal or unethical activities, and they protect employees from being discriminated against because of their race, gender, religion, age and several other factors. Those who feel as if they have been discriminated against or unjustly terminated from their positions may wish to hire an employment law attorney.
Source: Forbes, “New York State Becomes The Fourth Jurisdiction To Protect Unpaid Interns From Employment Discrimination“, Cindy Schmitt Minniti, July 28, 2014