HR Management & Compliance

New York City law protects unpaid interns

by New York Employment Law Lettershutterstock_187208948

A new law that aims to protect unpaid interns in New York City from discrimination and harassment on the job will take effect June 15.

The legislation, which was unanimously passed by the city council in March and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April, is in response to a court’s decision that an unpaid intern wasn’t protected from unlawful harassment because she wasn’t considered an employee. The judge made the ruling despite the fact that the law prohibits employers from discriminating against any “person” who has a characteristic protected by the city’s human rights law. Employers with four or more employees are covered by the law.

The amended law expressly states that an intern is considered a “person” under the sections of the law that prohibit discriminatory employment practices. The new law defines “intern” as an individual who performs work for an employer for the purpose of training if:

  • The individual works for a fixed period of time, and there is no expectation of employment at the end of the period.
  • The individual is not entitled to wages for the work.
  • The work supplements training given in an educational environment that may enhance the employability of the intern, provides experience for the benefit of the individual performing the work, does not displace regular employees, and is performed under the close supervision of existing staff.