From previous posts here, most of our Colorado readers would probably think that all employees are protected from any form of discrimination in the workplace, including sexual harassment. However, a recent article pointed toward one particular class of workers who may not receive all of the protections they deserve under state and federal employment law: unpaid interns.
According to the report, most employers probably know that unpaid interns do not fall under the protection of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Federal laws prohibit discrimination against employees or potential employees based on factors such as race, gender or nationality, among others. Sexual harassment is also prohibited, and many states have laws that supply additional protections for employees. However, some states do not, especially when it comes to unpaid interns, and as a result these individuals are not classified as "employees" for the purposes of protection under the law. So it would seem that unpaid interns may be open targets for sexual harassment in America, depending on the laws of the states.
Unpaid interns are oftentimes students who are trying their best to learn a profession from the inside. They are often called upon to do the thankless work that no one else wants to do, but these individuals are willing to do the work for the chance to get an edge in the ever-competitive workforce. That unpaid interns could be subjected to sexual harassment with no possibility of accountability may seem unfathomable to our readers. That is why when it comes to these types of employment-based incidents, it may be a good idea to seek out the best information on what options are available - which can depend on an individual's employment status.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Unpaid Intern Is Ruled Not an 'Employee,' Not Protected From Sexual Harassment," Venessa Wong, Oct. 8, 2013