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July 30, 2014

NY Governor Signs Bill Protecting Interns From Discrimination Under New York Law

On July 22, 2014, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that grants unpaid interns protections against employment discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation under New York law.  The bill, which took effect immediately, provides unpaid interns with the same protections as paid regular employees under the New York State Human Rights Law.  Accordingly, employers may not discriminate against interns or prospective interns based on their age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status or domestic violence victim status with respect to hiring, discharge, terms or conditions of employment, applications for internships, advertising, application forms, or application inquiries.  Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against interns for opposing prohibited practices.

The legislation signed by Governor Cuomo was introduced in response to the decision in Wang v. Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc., in which the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that unpaid interns are not “employees” and, therefore, not entitled to protections from discrimination afforded by the New York City Human Rights Law.  976 F. Supp.2d 527, 537 (S.D.N.Y. 2013).  The Judge in Wang noted that plaintiff’s discrimination claims would similarly fail under State and Federal law because those laws also do not extend protections to unpaid interns.  The bill follows a similar move by the New York City Council, which, on March 26, 2014, voted to amend the New York City Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination against interns.  A link to our previous client alert advising as to this amendment can be found at

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If you have any questions regarding the legislation protecting interns from discrimination or related issues, please do not hesitate to contact us.