Unpaid interns are not protected from sexual harassment under labor law, unless they live in Oregon. California and 48 other states have not enacted laws to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment. Because unpaid interns are not considered employees under the Civil Rights Act, they cannot legally seek recourse if they experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
Because unpaid interns do not receive a paycheck, they are technically not true employees. Only paid employees can file claims for sexual harassment under the Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in the workplace, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that over 11,300 sexual harassment lawsuits were filed in 2011.
The unpaid intern loophole came to light earlier this month when an intern in New York at Phoenix Satellite Television had a sexual harassment suit dismissed on the grounds that she was not on payroll, thus not considered a legal employee. The lawsuit claims that the unpaid intern was sexually harassed by her boss in a hotel room he lured her to by claiming they needed to have a “business discussion.” The plaintiff claims her boss attempted to touch her inappropriately and she left the room.
Sexual harassment against paid employees is illegal in California under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Employers can be held accountable for sexual harassment, even if they did not know it was happening. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sexual discrimination and applies to women, men, gays and lesbians, even if the harasser and victim are the same sex.
What Do I Do if I am Sexually Harassed at Work?
If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, you may first need to file a complaint within your company. If no action is taken, you may be able to file a suit against your employer if you have sufficient evidence of harassment. Our Los Angeles employment attorneys can help you determine liability in your sexual harassment case. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case.
Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob– Los Angeles employment attorneys