Internships are key to getting a great job right out of college. The more internships a student might have relating to their field of study, the more likely they will be ready for a job in that field. However, many interns are unpaid leaving them sometimes excluded from certain protections. One of those protections might be from sexual harassment in the workplace.
A recent case in another state involved an intern who claimed her superior lured her and other interns into a hotel room for what they thought were business purposes. The woman claims that when she got into the room, her boss made an advance on her, and he was later fired from the company. A judge in the sexual harassment case recently ruled that since she was an unpaid intern, she was technically not an employee and couldn't sue for sexual harassment.
A report on the ruling said that only one state currently has a law that extends sexual harassment protections to unpaid interns. This means that many other unpaid interns could find themselves in situations where they are not protected by law from unwanted advances.
Even if a person isn't paid, they should still be treated with respect and feel safe working for their professional development. Sexual harassment should never be acceptable for workers in West Virginia. If someone feels that their rights have been violated because of an unwanted advance in the workplace, they might be wise to speak with an experienced employment law attorney who can help them protect their rights.
Source: USA Today, “Judge: Unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment,” Emily Atteberry, Oct. 9, 2013