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Unpaid intern not allowed to claim sexual harassment

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A New York judge has ruled that a female intern cannot bring a sexual harassment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law, because she was not on the payroll.

According to Today’s Workplace, the intern, Lihuan Wang, who worked at Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc. allegedly experienced unwanted touching from her supervisor, along with sexual comments.

But the judge ruled the lack of a paycheck prevents her from being legally considered an employee.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, claimed that two weeks after Wang started working at the Chinese-language station in New York, her supervisor allegedly asked her to stay late after work, and then drop by his hotel.

Wang alleges her supervisor took off his jacket, before asking why she was so beautiful, and then tried to kiss her and squeeze her backside.

This case isn’t the first of its kind. Earlier this year, an unpaid intern in Washington, D.C. was also denied from suing for sexual harassment.

According to the district court, under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or the New York State Human Rights Law, unpaid interns do not qualify as employees because of the “absence of remuneration” such as pension and life insurance, which is an “essential condition to the existence of an employer-employee relationship.”

This article from Huffington Post gives a good overview of why unpaid interns are not protected against sexual harassment.

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