Monday, September 15, 2014

New California Law Protects Interns Against Sexual Harassment

California Law, Sexual Harassment
A new California law passed this past week extends the protections afforded by Title VII the Federal Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to unpaid interns with regard to sexual harassment.  It is and has been illegal in CA to sexually harass "employees" but, it was questionable, until now, if these same protections were in place for unpaid interns.   Now, that potential loophole has been closed.  California becomes the third state in the country to adopt such legislation.  New York was the first following several cases including a female intern from Syracuse University who brought harassment claims due to being groped and kissed by a supervisor while she was doing an unpaid college internship.

California law defines sexual harassment as sexual conduct directed towards a person which is either severe or pervasive (so-called "hostile work environment") or which is a "quid pro quo" demand for sexual favors in exchange for advancement in the workplace.  The laws of the State of California also prohibit retaliation against anyone who complains about sexually harassing conduct.

Many colleges and universities have unpaid internship programs every year in the Golden State.  It is nice to see that these students will have the protection of the law from sexual harassment.  Likewise, there are many programs throughout CA where interns conduct jobs without pay in order to gain experience that they can put on a resume for an eventual paid job.  Like anyone else in the workplace, these workers should not have to tolerate sexual advances or a hostile work environment simply because they are not being paid.  The law makes sense as a rational expansion of civil rights in the workplace in my opinion as a sexual harassment attorney in California.