Interns Not Really Employees: Can’t Sue for Harassment.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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14 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    Honestly, Nob, all this hostility, just because I’m older than you are.Report

  2. zic says:

    On the bright side, I see a plethora of new (and unpaid) internships suddenly becoming available to comely youths.Report

  3. KatherineMW says:

    This is preposterous, and illustrates yet again that the laws of the United States (along with most of the world’s nations) exist to protect wealthy corporations rather than regular human beings.

    If the courts can’t comprehend the fact that not being paid shouldn’t mean that you have less (or, more accurately, no) rights, then the concept of a “justice system” is a fraud.Report

    • david in reply to KatherineMW says:

      It’s actually rather darkly hilarious. You see, “little CRA” laws are all modelled on their Federal counterpart. So, even though the states and cities can nominally go further, they generally don’t.

      But their Federal Title VII counterpart is justified through the interstate commerce clause, and to get that constitutional writ, they don’t restrain volunteers or small businesses. The labour market for unpaid interns earning only “experience” might be vast, but it is not commerce, much less interstate (however thin that latter means).Report

    • “If the courts can’t comprehend the fact that not being paid shouldn’t mean that you have less (or, more accurately, no) rights, then the concept of a “justice system” is a fraud.”

      It’s not just the courts, it’s also the statutes they’re required to interpret. Presumably, I’d imagine that New York could revise its civil rights law so that interns could sue for sexual harassment. I admit, though, that courts aren’t off the hook. They often have some leeway and judges exercise certain choices when they interpret the application of a law that’s before them.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Pierre Corneille says:


        I’d say this is a consequence of legislatures simply not thinking about interns when drafting the sexual harassment statutes. It’s an oversight, and the courts hands are tied.

        Now, whether we correct that oversight is another matter.

        And it’s worth noting that it can be very problematic for interns to just walk away from a place where they’re being harassed if the internship is being done for college credit.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Fortunately, new laws to protect interns from sexual harassment won’t pass by too large a margin, since courts now use “it was too popular” as an excuse to overturn laws they dislike.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to KatherineMW says:

      The insinuation here is that the law was intentionally written to protect wealthy corporations. I don’t think the history bears that out — wealthy corporations fought against it and deployed or abetted a wide variety of very cynical ruses to prevent it from coming in to existence. Damn the legislatures of the various states and Congress for neglect and carelessness, but not for malice.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    I’m going to side with Burt, Pierre, and James. This is an example of negligence by the legislature and not malice by the courts and legislature. Considering this is an NYC law (IIRC), the city council can change it quickly.*

    That being said, I applaud the courts that are allowing class actions to continue against unpaid internships.

    *NYC does have her own employee-rights/anti-discrimination suit that is much more liberal than federal or state law. Largely because it allows parties to proceed towards court without exhausting admin remedies and has a broader scope.Report