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De Blasio Signs Law Protecting Interns From Discrimination, Sexual Harassment

Mayor Bill de Blasio was surrounded by elected officials and advocates for interns as he signed a bill protecting interns April 15, 2014, at City Hall. (credit: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio)

Mayor Bill de Blasio was surrounded by elected officials and advocates for interns as he signed a bill protecting interns April 15, 2014, at City Hall. (credit: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation Tuesday that ensures the city’s law against discrimination applies to interns, whether they’re paid or not.

The legislation, passed by the City Council late last month, clarifies that the protections of the city’s Human Rights Law cover interns as well as employees. It was proposed after a federal court ruled last year that a woman who brought a sexual harassment claim against a television company couldn’t sue because she wasn’t paid and therefore not under the law’s protection.

“This legislation underscores the fact that all interns are entitled to a workplace free from discrimination,” de Blasio said at a news conference, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

Manhattan Borough President, who employs dozens of interns at a time — she calls them the “Brew Crew” — first proposed legislation on the issue when she was in the City Council.

“The notion that somebody would be an intern in the private sector and not have the support was outrageous,” Brewer told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

Added Councilman Jimmy Vacca, D-Bronx, who sponsored the bill: “We cannot discriminate against interns. We should not on the basis of race, color, creed.”

The working conditions for unpaid interns have come under scrutiny recently. Several lawsuits have been filed against music companies, publishing companies and other industries over concerns that all interns deserve salaries.

On Tuesday, one NYU student described the experience of a fellow student who was sexually harassed as an intern.

“Now she and thousands of interns across the city can work towards their dreams knowing that their rights are cemented in law,” she said.

Some advocates for interns, however, said the law is a good starting point but the definition of an intern is too narrow because it doesn’t cover interns not hired under a formal internship program or volunteers.

“Would it really be OK for a hospital to tell a prospective volunteer, ‘Sorry, we only take whites’ or to say, ‘By the way, you’re going to be sexually harassed every Wednesday and Friday’?” said Craig Gurian, an anti-discrimination lawyer who rewrote the city’s Human Rights Law in 1991.

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