New York State Human Rights Law Now Includes Protections for Interns

Effective immediately, Governor Cuomo amends the New York State Human Rights Law providing certain protections for interns. The governor’s move comes on the heels of a recent federal court decision (Wang V. Phoenix Satellite TV US, Inc.) where the court found that an unpaid intern could not bring a sexual harassment claim against her “employer” because she was not considered an “employee” under the law.

With the recent amendment, interns in New York State will now be afforded protections from discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace, like that of paid employees. Also, pregnant interns are expressly afforded protections against a forced leave of absence due to the pregnancy, unless it prevents the intern from performing the essential functions of her job.

Main Takeaways for Employers

Employers in New York might consider the following points:

  • Review HR procedures for recruitment and screening of interns,
  • Update intern recruitment publications and related material to eliminate inquiry of the specified areas which are considered unlawful,
  • Update policies regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Interns are now afforded the same protections in these areas as employees, and
  • Review internship programs to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

There are still several months until New York’s legislative session ends for 2014. Compliance Poster Company’s HR Research and Compliance Team is tracking all labor and employment-related laws and will provide a session end wrap up upon its completion. Stay tuned.

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