“Unpaid interns cannot sue for sexual harassment”

Read this Daily News piece, headed INTERN IS FAIR GAME: Judge nixes harass suit, and scratch your head or spout curses. First, scratch your head, etc. Then read on.

Lihuan Wang, 26, took an unpaid job at Phoenix Satellite Television, because “she was thrilled to land a news reporter internship with Phoenix…”

Her boss invited her to his hotel “to discuss her job performance.” And grabbed her.

But. Although Ms. Wang filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, Federal Judge Kevin Castel

…tossed that claim last week, finding that only paid workers are covered by the city’s human rights law.

“Protection of employees does not extend to unpaid interns,” Castel wrote on Oct. 3.

He said the City Council has amended the New York City Human Rights Law several times in recent years to cover more situations but failed to shield interns.

Well yeah, because until “recent years” people like Ms. Wang could actually find paying jobs.

Yet those above paragraphs are not the most important ones in this Daily News piece. Here are the most important paragraphs:

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) said Wednesday she will introduce legislation to close the loophole that left Wang out in the cold.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who headed the Council committee that oversaw the last overhaul of the law in 2005, agreed.

Why are they important? Because they illustrate a major principle of democracy: if a hole in the law comes to light, and the outrage over that hole is intense, the hole can be filled with legislation. That is, no law is immutable, with its holes fixed forever in stone. The Lilly Ledbetter case is one stunning example.

And there’s another reason why those paragraphs are important. Gale Brewer will probably be the next Manhattan Borough President, and Bill de Blasio will probably be the next Mayor of the City of New York.

So I am sanguine that this law will get itself patched. But let me point out that if, given our current U.S. Congress, the Lilly Ledbetter law came up for a vote today, it would never pass. And that’s another reason to be joyous that we live in progressive New York City.

(Ms. Wang is moving forward with “the separate charge that Phoenix declined to hire her for a paid job as retaliation for rebuffing [the boss] after the alleged grope at his hotel room.”)

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