Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Duty Does a University Owe its Student Interns?

Are we sending our undergraduate students, especially female students, into a lion's den?

Many business programs either require or encourage students to seek internships as part of their undergraduate education.  These internships are typically unpaid.  As recently confirmed by a US District Court ruling, unpaid interns are not employees and, therefore, are not covered by the laws protecting employees in the workplace. The intern in that case, a Syracuse University student, was placed in an unpaid internship at the offices of a satellite television provider. She claimed to have been sexually harassed by an executive there. While our students are typical placed in professional business settings, these settings are not immune from incidents  of sexual harassment - incidents from which our students have little legal recourse.

It would seem that universities, at the minimum, should be charged with an obligation to advise students of this lack of protection and to monitor their workplaces closely - far more closely I am afraid than has been the norm to date. Perhaps readers can share suggestions in the comments section of this post.


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