The City Council passed a bill yesterday amending New York City's Human Rights Law to extend sexual harassment and discrimination rights to unpaid interns. The move now allows unpaid interns to sue their employers should they choose. It also makes the Big Apple one of the first American cities to have such rights for their interns. Reminder: it's 2014.
“No one should have to face discriminatory treatment, especially when they are seeking to improve their educational or career opportunities," Councilwoman Darlene Mealy said at the bill's passing.
Tell that to the judge who ruled against the idea of protecting interns back in October. Why? Try to follow this logic: Workers get paid. Interns do not. So, interns are not workers. And workers have rights in the workplace. Therefore, interns do not have rights in the workplace. Make sense?
This decision made interns an exception to the basic integrity of human beings; the bill's sponsor, Councilman James Vacca, explains: "Interpretation of the current law leaves a Swiss cheese-like hole that could jeopardize an intern's rights and recourse." And Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, "Unpaid interns deserve protections against harassment, which is why I am proud to have co-sponsored today’s City Council bill to unsure they enjoy the full protection of the New York City Human Rights Law. In more than 30 years of public service, I have had over 1,000 interns. They have been invaluable - and we should value them in turn."
The right to sue for sexual harassment and discrimination is a historic landmark in the intern rights movement, coming just a day after the Times decided to start paying their academic interns minimum wage instead of $3.85 an hour. The march towards full personhood in the workplace continues, placing interns on equal footing as pregnant women, but not corporations. Truly something we can all be proud of.