A court has ruled that unpaid interns are not employees, so they are not protected from sexual harassment on the job.
Lihuan Wang was an intern at Phoenix Satellite Television, and her supervisor was Liu Zhengzhu. Liu invited Lihuan to lunch, along with some of her coworkers, and asked her to stay with him after lunch to ‘discuss her performance.’ He then got her to go to his hotel room with him, where he groped her. She pushed him away, left the room and tried to press charges against Pheonix for sexual harassment. This is where things really get bad.
Lihuan has no legal standing to bring sexual harassment charges against Pheonix because she is not an employee as defined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In other words, unless you have a local law against this kind of thing, it’s open season on sexually harassing interns.
I’ve always had a problem with the unpaid internship system. If you aren’t paying somebody who is producing for you 40 hours a week, who you dictate rules to like every other employee at your company, then that person is a slave, end of story. I don’t care what kind of bullshit spin you give it, that’s slavery.
Anyway, getting off my soapbox…
This isn’t an isolated incident. Interns have been trying to file suits like this for decades. According to the Guardian, this kind of thing could happen in the UK as well, so America is not alone in this.
The best solution to this would be to completely do away with mandatory unpaid internship requirements at all universities. Nobody should have to put up with this kind of bullshit for a college degree.