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Proposed bill shields unpaid interns from sexual harassment


News about an unpaid intern who lost a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former boss for acts committed in 2010 is a hot topic among New York residents. According to the judge who oversaw the case, New York City's human rights provisions do not provide protection to unpaid interns.

Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, has proposed a bill that would protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment. If enacted, the bill would make any form of sexual advance or favor, physical or verbal, considered sexual harassment and therefore punishable under law. In addition, the bill aims to protect interns from employers who would seek to retaliate following the filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Sexual harassment comes in various forms, from lewd or sexually suggestive comments to the open display of sexually explicit materials in the workplace, to sex discrimination and to actual physical acts. Both individually and in totality, such acts can create a hostile work environment that both intimidates workers and hinders their ability to perform well at work. Some workers who suffer sexual harassment often choose to remain silent out of fear of losing their jobs. This silence can then subject them to repeated abuse, which can be traumatizing and demoralizing and lead to less productive employees.

Workers should note that any form of sexual harassment is illegal. Any worker who has experienced such an act can file a claim against the abuser, male or female, straight or gay. This may prevent the abuser from repeat behavior. In addition, the worker could be compensated financially if he or she can prove in court that the defendant has committed the acts.

Any victim of harassment should obtain legal advice from an attorney who understands the law and can best navigate the case in favor of the plaintiff.

Source: Buffalonews.com, "New York bill aims to protect interns against sexual harassment," Tom Precious, Oct. 14, 2013

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