Dec 22, 2014

Illinois expands sexual harassment protections to unpaid interns

Recently, Illinois became the fifth state to extend workplace sexual harassment laws to unpaid interns. The Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) was recently amended to add “unpaid interns” to the definition of “employee,” extending the sexual harassment protections of the IHRA to unpaid interns. Starting January 1, 2015, the IHRA will define an unpaid intern as an individual who does work for an employer under the following circumstances:

    (I) the employer is not committed to hiring the person performing the work at the conclusion of the intern's tenure;
    (II) the employer and the person performing the work agree that the person is not entitled to wages for the work performed; and
    (III) the work performed:
                (i) supplements training given in an educational environment that may enhance the employability of the intern;
                (ii) provides experience for the benefit of the person performing the work;
                (iii) does not displace regular employees;
                (iv) is performed under the close supervision of existing staff; and
                (v) provides no immediate advantage to the employer providing the training and may occasionally impede the operations of the employer.

While the IHRA generally only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, sexual harassment protections, along with other forms of discrimination covered by the Act, apply to employers regardless of how many employees they have. As a result of this amendment, all employers are encouraged to review their policies in regards to unpaid interns and sexual harassment. Employers are encouraged to seek counsel in developing or changing their policies, procedures and training with regards to sexual harassment. Employers are further encouraged to distribute their sexual harassment policies to all employees, including unpaid interns.

This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.

Client alert authored by: Evan D. Blewett, Esq.