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Congress considering bill to protect unpaid interns

Did you know that unpaid interns, since they're technically not employees, don't have all of the same legal protections as salaried workers if they are sexually harassed on the job?

Consider, for example, the story of an intern who worked for Phoenix Satellite Television. She was going to Syracuse University at the time. While she was working there and at a hotel, her boss said he needed to talk to her about her performance and asked her to come by his hotel room.

She did so, not thinking it would be a problem, but he them allegedly made sexual advances at her, including touching her and trying to kiss her. She left, finished her internship, wasn't offered a job, and never talked to the man about it.

However, knowing she'd been wronged, she filed a lawsuit. It went to court in 2013, and a judge sided against her on the grounds that she was an intern, not an employee. This meant the protections that actual employees got didn't apply to her.

There are thousands of unpaid interns in Michigan alone, and tens of thousands across the country. Some college courses require internships.

Though it may be too late for her case, something is now being done. A bill has been put before congress to get rid of this surprising loophole. It would simply take the protections and rights that workers get already and give them to unpaid interns, as well. If it turns into a law, it would be a huge development.

Make sure you keep an eye on this bill so that you know how your federal rights may change.

Source: International Business Times, "Sexual Harassment At Work: Congress Could End Loophole That Leaves Unpaid Interns Without Legal Protections," Cole Stangler, Jan. 20, 2016

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