Assemblyman to Introduce Bill to Close Unpaid Intern Harassment Loophole

Joe Borelli. (Photo: Facebook)
Joe Borelli. (Photo: Facebook)

“This should be filed under the category of ‘How is this not a law already?’” Assemblyman Joe Borelli declared today.

Mr. Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, was reacting to today’s news that a federal judge recently dismissed a harassment suit filed by Lihuan Wang, a former intern at Phoenix Satellite Television’s New York bureau, because, as an unpaid intern, she apparently didn’t have standing in the case.

In response, Mr. Borelli announced today that he plans to introduce legislation to close the loophole in the State Assembly.

“Sexually deviant supervisors should be liable criminally and civilly regardless of a subordinate’s official role in the organization,” said Borelli in a statement. “Creeps shouldn’t get off on technicalities.”

Mr. Borelli’s press release directly noted that the State Legislature seen a slew of sexual harassment scandals in recent months and years, including those involving Vito Lopes and Micah Kellner. He noted the incidents have tarnished Speaker Shelly Silver, whose office has been accused of repeatedly covering up allegations and enabling the victimization of more young women.

“If we are really looking to address this problem, then this would be a logical first step,” Mr. Borelli argued.

Councilwoman and Democratic Manhattan Borough President nominee Gale Brewer said yesterday that she planned to introduce legislation to fix the problem at the city level, but Mr. Borelli argued it should be addressed statewide as well.

He told Politicker he was actively looking for a partner in the State Senate.

Update: (6:42 p.m.): Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal is also introducing legislation to address the issue. As Ms. Rosenthal, like the majority of her chamber, is a Democrat, it’s more likely that her bill would move forward than Mr. Borelli’s.

In a statement, Ms. Rosenthal called the status quo “unconscionable”:

“It is unconscionable that unpaid interns are not protected in the same way as employees against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment and no less injurious to the victim just because they don’t receive a paycheck. And, without legal protections, we are sending the wrong message to interns, who are increasingly being asked to work the hours and perform the duties of regular employees, but not offering them the same legal protections. It’s a senseless double standard, and my law, when it passes, will put an end to it.”

Assemblyman to Introduce Bill to Close Unpaid Intern Harassment Loophole