Two former interns (one who worked at The New Yorker, another from W Magazine) sued the magazines’ parent company, Condé Nast Publications, this summer — claiming, among other things, that they were paid less than $1 an hour. The Condé Nast lawsuit is one of more than 30 cases that we’re tracking in our recently updated Internship Lawsuit Tracker.
And in other internship lawsuit news, a reminder that unpaid interns aren’t protected from sexual harassment: last week, a federal judge tossed out a former unpaid intern’s harassment case against Phoenix Satellite Television.
The intern had accused the broadcast network’s Washington bureau chief, Zhengzhu Liu, of making suggestive sexual comments and luring her back to his hotel room, where he allegedly cornered her, kissed her and groped her. The complaint alleges that Liu “intentionally preyed on the most vulnerable employees at Phoenix,” like young interns and aspiring immigrants.
As we’ve reported before, because unpaid interns aren’t considered “employees,” they are generally not protected from sexual harassment under federal laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
State and local laws are another issue. The former Phoenix Satellite intern filed her hostile work environment complaint under New York City Human Rights Law. The New York City Council amended the law in 2005 to say it should be “construed liberally” to provide legal recourse. But the federal judge said that if the City Council had wanted to extend workplace protections to unpaid interns and volunteers, it would have explicitly done so.
This June, Oregon was the first state to expand discrimination and sexual harassment protections to unpaid interns explicitly; thus far, no other states have enacted similar protections.
Read the court’s decision.