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New Jersey interns facing sexual harassment have legal rights

When it comes to internships at New Jersey businesses, there's no doubt that they can be thankless positions. Long days of working, tedious tasks and little to no pay can make them tough to stomach; however, they are definitely worth it for students who want to gain the skills and contacts that internships can provide. With that being said, there is no reason for interns to suffer from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, many young people in intern roles may not recognize that they do have legal rights when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.

The main issue can sometimes be that interns aren't always certain of the parameters they should expect when they are working on behalf of an organization. They know that they'll be at the lower rung of the proverbial "corporate ladder," so they often have lowered expectations of what they'll be asked to do. Plus, sexual harassment can often take subtle forms, especially at first.

Surprisingly, some state and national laws do not necessarily state rules and guidelines when it comes to interns and sexual harassment. In New Jersey, a bill against discriminating interns in the workplace has been introduced. Though it doesn't expressly mention sexual misconduct, it could potentially be interpreted as such by a judge if it were to be passed.

Fortunately, discussions are finally beginning to happen around the protection necessary for interns. Yet there is no reason for an intern who has experienced sexual harassment to wait. The laws stand firmly against this kind of behavior; if an intern can prove that he or she was victimized, compensation for damages may be awarded. The key is to speak up and get the justice that's deserved.

Source: psmag.com, "What We Learned Investigating Unpaid Internships", Blair Hickman, July 30, 2014

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