Unpaid interns learning the ropes at various Kansas City offices and businesses may be shocked to learn that federal courts added certain civil rights protections to the list of benefits to which they are not entitled. The case involved an unpaid intern who sued for sexual harassment after claiming her boss invited her to an orgy and said she would have to undress before meeting with him. A federal appeals court said her case should be thrown out due to her unpaid work status.

It seems that federal law follows these kinds of court rulings. No protection from sexual harassment is offered to workers who do not receive significant remuneration, according to an official from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other provisions in the Civil Rights Act also are not considered by the EEOC to apply to unpaid interns. It was unclear how many interns were sexually harassed at their temporary workplaces, because records of such incidents are not kept.

Local or state laws, as well as policies of a particular company, may protect those in this work classification left unprotected by federal law. Oregon recently became the first state to extend sexual harassment protections to unpaid interns working in the state. The state’s new law also protects against discrimination by race, religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation. Oregon, however, was careful to state that such cases of discrimination do not have any bearing on wages or create an implied employment relationship between an unpaid intern and the place of work.

An attorney experienced in employment law may be able to help individuals affected by a hostile working environment, wrongful termination or sexual harassment. Such an attorney may be able to help arrange financial compensation for damages such as emotional stress or suffering.

Source: Mintpress News, “How Unpaid Interns Aren’t Protected Against Sexual Harassment“, Blair Hickman and Christie Thompson, August 10, 2013