Title VII protects employees. Without pay, interns are generally not considered employees. However, some states do offer discrimination protections under state law.
Lihuan Wang was an unpaid intern for Phoenix Satellite Television U.S. She alleged that after beginning work for Phoenix, the bureau chief invited her along with some co-workers to lunch. Following lunch, Ms. Wang was asked to stay and discuss her work performance. Then, the bureau chief urged her to come to his hotel room to drop off some things. While there, he took off his jacket and tie, and then threw his arms around her. He asked her “Why are you so beautiful?” He held her, tried to kiss her and squeezed her buttocks. Ms. Wang asserted that she pushed him away. Subsequently, when Ms. Wang asked about getting a job after her internship, he responded by asking her to join him in Atlantic City.
The District Court in New York dismissed the case. Ms. Wang was not an employee for the purposes of Title VII. Moreover, the New York City Council had never passed a law providing these interns with sexual harassment protections. Ms. Wang’s case is continuing as she is pursuing a failure to hire claim. Phoenix denies that she applied for a job.