Let's be real -- it sucks to be an unpaid intern. We can argue the merits of gaining experience versus the toil of unpaid grunt work, but nobody enjoys not getting paid. And on top of that, it apparently means not being able to bring a sexual harassment claim against your employer.
Last week, a New York federal district court ruled that Lihuan Wang, a former intern at Phoenix Satellite Television, could not bring a sexual harassment claim under New York human rights laws because she was not compensated, and therefore not considered an employee: Unpaid interns not protected from sexual harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Wang was interning at the Chinese-language media company's New York office when her supervisor and bureau chief, Zhengzhu Liu, sexually harassed her after luring her to his hotel room with the bullshit excuse of wanting to talk about her job performance and the possibility of hiring her full time:
Wang was two weeks into her internship at the Chinese-language media company when, she alleges, her supervisor and bureau chief, Liu Zhengzhu, asked her to accompany him to his hotel room after a business lunch so he could drop off some things and talk about her performance. Once in the hotel room, according to the complaint, he started to strip and threw his arms around her while saying “Why are you so beautiful? Why?”Ugh. But the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found that because Wang was an unpaid intern, not an employee, she could not bring a claim under the New York City Human Rights Law. Unpaid interns aren't covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that's that. Talk about vulnerable.
She further alleges that he then tried to kiss her, and squeezed her buttocks, at which point Wang left the room. When she later asked about her performance, the complaint asserts that Zhengzhu invited her to join him on a trip to Atlantic City.
More here: New York court declares unpaid interns can't file sexual harassment charges against employers.