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Federal law may not protect interns from sexual harassment

Many businesses take advantage of using unpaid interns. In exchange for their work, the interns receive experience, industry connections, and just might land a job at the company after completing the internship. Just like any other kind of employee at a Florida business, an intern may be subjected to sexual harassment. However, interns must know that laws protecting paid employees from sexual harassment may protect unpaid interns.

Even worse, interns are often in a very delicate situation at their workplaces because they want to make a good impression. If sexual harassment does take place, they may be less likely to report it for fear of losing their good standing at the company and losing the possibility of getting a paid job in the future. Nevertheless, unpaid interns who bring sexual harassment claims forward often find their cases getting dismissed by federal courts.

According to an intern labor rights advocate and law professor, because interns do not receive payment for their work, they are not considered 'employees' by the Civil Rights Act – and therefore they exist in a kind of limbo legally. In this regard, interns do not appear to have the same level of protection from sexual harassment that normal employees have, at least with regard to federal law. Nevertheless, interns may be able to seek justice by using certain state laws and citing corporate policy at the company where they are working.

Any intern who feels that he or she has been the victim of sexual harassment in Florida can seek professional assistance. The bottom line is that no one should have to put up with this kind of abuse, whether or not he or she is paid. Even if federal law does not appear to support such claims, there may be other ways to assert an intern's rights – by citing state laws and corporate policy, for example.

Source: motherjones.com, "Unpaid Intern? You Probably Aren't Protected Against Sexual Harassment," Blaire Hickman, Aug. 9, 2013

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