By Rhyan Henson
As if working regular hours for no pay isn’t unreasonable enough, coworkers and bosses also want to grab a quick feel these days—and the law allows it.
Earlier this month, a judge ruled that because Lihuan Wang, a former intern of Phoenix Satellite Television, was not paid, she can not sue under workplace sexual harassment laws.
Upon the end of the trial, Gale Brewer, New York City councilwoman, will introduce legislation that will close the loophole. In places like Oregon and Washington, D.C., lawmakers have already passed legislation protecting unpaid interns.
The United States Department of Labor does not have any guidlines or limits to the number of hours an unpaid intern can work, said Gary Beaulieu, director of internship career services.
If interns can work many hours for little pay—which should be a crime in and of itself—at the very least they should have the same right and legal protections as employees.
Interns are younger, more naïve and inexperienced than most other coworkers. This makes them much more vulnerable than most other employees.
Internships are one of the most important ways that young adults set themselves apart from their peers when looking for work. According to a Forbes survey, 66 percent of employers believe that interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors when hiring.
The lack of experience and reliance on career advancements makes interns targets for myraid types of abuse in the workplace, not specifically just sexual.
It is bad enough that some employers perceive paying interns as unacceptable, but private industry and the government must at least keep all of their unpaid interns safe from workroom rapists.
An average of 80 percent of students complete a real world experience while attending Butler. Around 50 percent of those are unpaid, Beaulieu said. Many of the colleges on campus make students complete at least one internship before graduating.
Prospective interns need to know the laws that protect them, to make sure that they do not become the next workplace victim. Lawmakers need to take the neccessary steps to protect those in the workplace who are most vulnerable.