News & Resources

CLIENT ALERT: Unpaid Interns To Be Protected Under NYC Discrimination Law

April 2014
Aliza Herzberg and Lori Barnea

On March 26, 2014, the New York City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL”) to protect unpaid interns from discrimination and harassment.  Under the amended law, unpaid interns would be permitted to sue their employer or make a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights.  Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign the amendment.

This amendment is a response to an October 2013 federal court decision that found that the NYCHRL does not protect interns from workplace discrimination.  The court ruled that unpaid interns are not employees for purposes of anti-discrimination laws.  The New York City Council acted to amend the NYCHRL to ensure that interns would be able to make claims for harassment and discrimination in the future.  The New York State legislature is expected to follow and amend or introduce a new state law protecting interns.

The amended law would protect interns in the same manner as employees are protected and would prohibit employers from discriminating against interns on the basis of their actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, citizenship status or status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking.

New York City employers should review their anti-discrimination policies to confirm that they cover unpaid interns as well as employees.  New York State employers should watch the news closely since discrimination laws may change shortly.

For more information regarding the law, including a review of your existing anti-discrimination policies, or on any other employment matter, please contact the Olshan attorney with whom you regularly work or either of the attorneys listed below.

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