The topic of unpaid interns has generated a lot of buzz in the employment law world after a flurry of recent lawsuits in which interns sought repayment under the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Our Professional Liability Matters blog discussed the issue in posts on June 25 and July 9.) However, an October 3 decision from the Southern District of New York has taken the topic into a new direction: sexual harassment. The result? The court ruled that unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment under New York City municipal civil rights laws.
Articles Discussing Sexual Harassment Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A recent federal court decision provides a useful reminder that abusive and offensive behavior that is targeted at employees of one gender can amount to unlawful sexual harassment. The particular behavior involved in this case was specifically “sexual” in nature, but the court’s decision makes it clear that even behavior with no sexual content can be sexual harassment if it is directed only at males or only at females.
Recent harassment cases should serve as a warning to employers regarding the effectiveness of their harassment policies, especially in hostile work environment cases.