On April 15, 2014, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) extending the protections from discrimination and harassment contained in the NYCHRL to both paid and unpaid interns. The amendment goes into effect on June 14, 2014.
The amendment was enacted in response to the October 2013 decision in Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc., where the Southern District of New York held that the protections against discrimination and harassment under the NYCHRL do not extend to unpaid interns. To rectify the holding in Wang, the amendment clarifies that the protections of the NYCHRL apply to both paid and unpaid interns. The amendment defines “interns” as:
[A]n individual who performs work for an employer on a temporary basis whose work: (a) provides training or supplements training given in an educational environment such that the employability of the individual performing the work may be enhanced; (b) provides experience for the benefit of the individual performing the work; and (c) is performed under the close supervision of existing staff. The term shall include such individuals without regard to whether the employer pays them a salary or wage.
As a result of the amendment, both paid and unpaid interns in New York City will have the same protections from discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics (e.g., race, gender, religion, etc.) previously available to all employees.
Since the amendment to the NYCHRL goes into effect on June 14, 2014, employers who hire interns in New York City should promptly make any necessary changes to their handbooks or other employment policies to ensure consistency with the amendment.