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Not Paid? Not Protected from Sexual Harassment According to Asshole of the Week Award Winner Judge Kevin Castel

October 9, 2013

There are times in this country where having very few female judges in this country really counts, and apparently it counts in spades when considering cases for sexual harassment. New York Judge Kevin Castel gets the Asshole of the Week Award for his recent ruling that if women aren’t paid during their internships, Judge Castel asserts that their employers can sexually harass the female interns with immunity.

Precedent has been set by male federal judges that female interns, while they have a boss, don’t get protection if they don’t receive a salary:

The ruling comes at a time when a growing number of interns are suing high profile employers like Condé Nast and Hearst seeking to be paid for their work. Some of the interns have won cases or settlements against Fox Searchlight Pictures and Charlie Rose.

Working without pay, clearly, isn’t the only issue. Interns like Wang have been filing harassment claims to no avail for decades.

In 1994, nursing student Bridget O’Connor brought a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York against a psychiatric hospital at which she interned.

Shortly after she started her internship, one of the doctors began referring to her as “Miss Sexual Harassment” and suggested she get undressed before meeting with him. She said the harassment was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court ruled that since O’Connor did not get a salary, benefits or sick time, she was not considered an employee and not protected under the law. A federal appeals court affirmed the decision, and threw out the claim.

Similarly, in 2007, Washington D.C. district court judge Ellen Segal Huvelle dismissed claims brought by an unpaid intern against a chiropractor’s office, under similar grounds.

So far, only one state, Oregon, has broadened out the standards for harassment to protect unpaid interns. The state passed a law in June that extends such protections to all interns, whether they’re paid or not.

Attorney Lynne Bernabei, who represented Wang in the New York Phoenix television case, said there’s a big hole in employment law that needs to be filled to protect interns.

“As young interns, these are the most vulnerable people and clearly they should be protected,” she said.

Just because the woman isn’t making money doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a working relationship with business–after all she is there under the presumption that her job is not that of prostitution, which is illegal. Only if the women were interning as prostitutes would sexual groping be part of a normal job description and therefore allowed at an internship site. Since prostitution is generally illegal in most states, and definitely not a recognized university program or business program, it seems strange that federal “Judge” (Alias Mysogynist) Kevin Castel, would seem to think that a business internship should include groping a woman’s genitals. It’s not an issue of pay, but an issue of the relationship between an intern and her “employer-for-whom-she-works-but-receives-no-payment.” An internship is considered the equivalent of a class for which the “student” or “intern” receives teaching, and sexual harassment isn’t allowed in schools or classrooms, so why is it allowed for employers who bring on interns?

Even more bizarre is the fact that this has been accepted precedent. If an intern enters into a working relationship, paid or not, the working relationship should be recognized as such. The woman involved in the claim never stated that she was at a job site as a personal favor or because we was seeking some sort of sexual groping, so why should it be allowed? Skirting the issue of payment to condone sexual harassment is simply the way lots of judges rule, by the skirt and not by the law.

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