Interns & Sexual Harassment: Are You Protected?

Under current California employment law, interns and other unpaid volunteers and workers are not protected by law when it comes to sexual harassment. This issue came to the attention of California Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner when she heard the story of Lihuan Wang, an unpaid intern at a TV station in New York City.

Lihuan Wang's Story

Wang sued her employer Zhengzhu Liu in 2013, claiming that she was lured to his hotel room under the pretense that he wanted to speak with her about her performance and the prospect of a full-time position. She claimed that, when they were alone together in the room, her employer attempted to kiss her and "squeezed her buttocks." Liu then showed no interest in hiring Wang after she denied his advances.

The judge presiding over the case ruled that it would be thrown out since Wang was not an "employee" in legal standards and therefore did not qualify for employee protection from sexual harassment.

Assemblywoman Skinner's Bill

In California, unpaid workers and volunteers could face the same lack of protection should they attempt to file a sexual harassment claim, since they are also not considered "employees." California Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner seeks to change that.

On January 6, 2014, Assemblymember Skinner introduced a bill to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination. On her website, Skinner is quoted as saying:

"The recession has forced young people to rely on these unpaid positions to build resumes and contacts in an incredibly competitive job market… Employers owe them a safe and fair workplace."

Essentially, the bill would explicitly ban workplace harassment and discrimination toward unpaid interns and would apply general employee rights to unpaid interns.

  • Read more about Assemblywoman Skinner and her bill by clicking here.


If you have been harassed or have experienced discrimination in your workplace, do not let it slide. Sexual Harassment Employment Attorneys can provide an Orange County employment attorney to fight for your rights and help you obtain justice, as well as fair compensation. Call now at (877) 742-2889 to contact us and schedule a consultation!

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