Interns now Protected from Discrimination and Harassment under New York City Human Rights Law

Interns provide a positive contribution to many workplaces but are often vulnerable to discrimination and harassment, just like employees. The City of New York now provides greater legal protections to both paid and unpaid interns who work for employers in New York City that have 4 or more employees.  The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) was amended, effective April 15, 2014 when signed into law by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to include paid and unpaid interns as individuals protected against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  


The NYCHRL defines an intern as anyone who “performs work for an employer on a temporary basis whose work:

  • provides training or supplements training given in an educational environment such that the employability of the individual performing the work may be enhanced;
  • provides experience for the benefit of the individual performing the work; and
  • is performed under the close supervision of existing staff.”

The NYCHRL makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, or discriminate in terms of salary or any other workplace benefit or condition (including the right to be free from harassment) based on actual or perceived:

  • age
  • race
  • religious belief or faith
  • color
  • national origin
  • gender (which includes gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression)
  • disability
  • marital or partnership status
  • sexual orientation
  • citizenship or immigration status

The NYCHRL also makes it illegal for an employer to impose certain burdens on faith or religious practices.

An employer may be liable for the discriminatory actions of an employee or agent if the employee or agent has “managerial or supervisory responsibility;” or if the employer knew or should have known of an employee or agent’s discriminatory actions and failed to take appropriate steps to prevent or correct them.

If you or someone you know is an intern and has experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace please contact an experienced employment attorney at Spivak Lipton immediately to discuss your legal options.



Posted on July 9, 2014 .