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Research Paper Proposal

Scenario of Sexual Harassment

at Workplace
[Of Unpaid Interns at Offices].
By Rakesh Kumar Sahoo1


This paper attempts to illustrate the condition of sexual harassment at workplace specially
taking into consideration the condition of unpaid interns who most of the times fail to claim
their civil rights because they are not categorized as employees as they are not provided with
any kind remunerations as such. Therefore what happens is they are not able to approach
proper authorities because they know there is hardly any chance that they will be redressed
and such situation more often than not leave such interns unprotected and vulnerable to
incidents of sexual harassment by their superior authorities be it their bosses, managers or
under whom they are working. Hence, this paper will try to analyse their positions and look
into how deep this problem persists in the society.

1 Semester 1st , Roll No - 342


The Research question/hypothesis on which the researcher has proceeded to develop this
desertion is that The condition of unpaid interns at workplace is not good and the current
laws doesnt protect them from in any way because they are not employees and sexual
harassment laws protects employees from sexual harassment at workplace.


Sexual Harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or

inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours. In most modern legal
contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. Sexual Harassment is a broad term because it
encompasses all kinds of harassments that are sex-orientated and thus it needs to be defined
to narrow down its meaning to our sphere of research. According to our sphere of research we
are concerned with sexual harassment at workplace and then further only to workers who
work as intern without any remunerations. Hence we need to define each of these in order to
clear our understanding about this paper.

Sexual Harassment has been a problem and in recent times a major problem both in India as
well as the world. In India, it existed much before independence and also post-independence
era, but perhaps as people started getting modernised and the major part of the population
started working in offices and corporate houses, this phenomenon or the term Sexual
Harassment came much more in the limelight and thus the increasing number of such
incidents depicted the urgent need for some laws which protect people from harassment. In
1997 the famous case of Vishaka v State of Rajasthan in which guidelines were laid by the
Supreme Court.

In case of the world, let us take the example of USA, this is major problem specially the
question which this paper takes up that is the problem of unpaid interns being harassed but
left with no remedy because they are not protected under US laws.US laws only protects
employees who work in return of payments. This will be discussed in more detail in this
paper in its later sections.


Sexual Harassment at workplace as defined by Protection of women against sexual

harassment at workplace act, 2013 and hence by Supreme Court:

Sexual Harassment at workplace includes unwelcome sexually determined behaviour

Physical contact and advances

Demand or request for sexual favours
Sexually coloured remarks
Showing pornography
Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Here, in the Indian context it is not clear about the interns but then it is imperative that since
sexual harassment at workplace is in its nature related to workers and employees and thus it is
possible that interns are not included in that purview. Now, here it is important for this paper
to define who is an employees, who is an intern and who is entitled to what.

An employee is anyone who has agreed to be employed, under a contract of service, to work
for some form of payment. This can include wages, salary, commission and piece rates. This


people who have been offered and have accepted a job

fixed-term employees

seasonal employees

casual and part-time employees

Probationary and trial employees.2

As it can be seen that though the term employee includes even part-time employees but not
interns as they are not paid and they work for educational purpose and hence those interns
who are not paid do not classify as employee.

An intern is a student or a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training for

educational purpose. Now, there are two kinds of intern:

2 a/c Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment Site

Paid Interns
Unpaid Interns

Paid interns are those who work in any organisation for practical training but they are entitled
to some stipend which they receive for the work they do and hence get entitled for any kind
of redressal in the eyes of law.

Unpaid Interns are those who work for practical training but they are not entitled to any
remunerations and thus they are not included in the purview and hence cannot claim
compensation for any kind of sexual harassment they face in their workplaces.

Now, let us look purely in the context of USA and the same problem from the point of view
of USA.

As defined by the US EEOC3, "It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee)
because of that persons sex." Harassment can include "sexual harassment" or unwelcome
sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical harassment of a
sexual nature.

EEOC is one of the leading organisation which collects and releases data relating to sexual
harassment at workplace and this definition as given by them nowhere covers interns under
the law. In the US, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based
on race, sex, colour, national origin or religion. Initially only intended to combat sexual
harassment of women, {42 U.S.C. 2000e-2} the prohibition of sex discrimination covers
both females and males. This discrimination occurs when the sex of the worker is made as a
condition of employment (i.e. all female waitpersons or male carpenters) or where this is a
job requirement that does not mention sex but ends up barring many more persons of one sex
than the other from the job (such as height and weight limits).4

The incident given below is one such instance of an intern getting harassed and show
perfectly the condition and situation the intern are faced with at their respective workplaces.
In 1994, Bridget OConnor began an internship at Rockland Psychiatric Centre, where one
of the doctors allegedly began to refer to her as Miss Sexual Harassment, told her that she

3 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, USA

4 Sexual Harassment at Workplace article, Wikipedia

should participate in an orgy, and suggested that she remove her clothing before meeting with
him. Other women in the office made similar claims.

Yet when OConnor filed a lawsuit, her sexual harassment claims were dismissed because she
was an unpaid intern. A federal appeals court affirmed the decision to throw out the claim.
Unpaid interns miss out on wages and employment benefits, but they can also find
themselves in legal limbo when it comes to civil rights, according to law professor and
intern labour rights advocate David Yamada. The OConnor decision (the leading ruling on
the matter, according to Yamada) held that because they dont get a pay check, unpaid interns
are not employees under the Civil Rights Act -- and thus, theyre not protected.5

Hence, it is pretty much clear that the most vulnerable class of worker in an organisation or
office or corporate house are the unpaid interns and thus this class of people need a lot of
protection or at least some laws which protect their interests because at the current situation
they are not all protected. Even if they get harassed they remain silent because there are many
reasons for that. One that they are in their preliminary stages of their career and they do not
want to spoil their career. Secondly, being very young at their workplaces are under very
much pressure both mentally and psychologically and thus they perhaps refrain from going
against any such incidents. Therefore, it is pretty much important to protect the intern from
such ineffective laws by replacing the existing laws with more stringent and equal laws for all
because more than just wages it is about injury to a persons physical and mental peace as

One solution can be as presented by Oregon Government. In June, Oregon passed a

law expanding discrimination and harassment protections to interns, whether they are paid or
not. According to Charlie Burr, spokesperson for the states Bureau of Labour and Industries,
Oregon is the first state to pass such protections.

5 Blair Hickman and Christie Thompson ProPublica

Those principles of protecting people in the workplace have been in place for a long time,
but theyve never applied to interns, said Oregon Labour Commissioner Brad Avakian It
really left them with few options.

Oregons law protects interns from sexual harassment and discrimination based on race,
religion, gender, disability, and sexual orientation and covers wrongful termination tied to
discrimination but it doesnt create an employment relationship or impact wages, an issue
the state was careful to avoid, according to Avakian.6

The idea for the law came from Carole Delogu, a former unpaid intern in the states Bureau
of Labour and Industries, after she read an article in the Public Interest Law Journal on the
workplace protections not afforded to interns.

Therefore, in this paper it is pretty clear that the condition of unpaid interns is very much
worse and thus they are in dire need of some solution and this paper will try to find the
problems in detail and then find a solution to this problem in course of this research paper.

One of the solution or so to say policy as proposed by the Oregon government can be one of
the possible solution. Hence, this paper would take the help of various case studies and thus
establish its results.

6 Blair Hickman and Christie Thompson ProPublica

The present research being doctrinal in nature, the research has been concentrated to the
sources those were available in the library and upon the internet. Both primary and secondary
sources of data have been used. These include case studies, articles, reports and materials
available on the internet.

The research proposal is limited to the analysis of sexual harassment of unpaid interns at
workplace and thus doesnt include other employees who may also be affected by sexual
harassment at workplace. Moreover, this research proposal is limited to the study of sexual
harassment at workplace in USA and to some extent in India also but mostly it focuses on the
study in USA.

This research proposal is aimed at emphasizing on the analysis sexual harassment scenario
that is prevalent and the condition of unpaid intern in the society. All the data collected for
this purpose are from published articles, papers and books from various authors. No
copyright is violated in this regard. The information collected in this regard will not be
misused in any sense.

Time period required to complete this doctrinal research will be approximately between 3- 5
months. This includes collection of statistics, sample surveys, interviews, data collection from
various government agencies, formulation and preparation of the research paper.


Estimated expenditure for completion of this research paper would be Rs 7000 /- .

Details of the expenditure includes:-

Data Collection (access to statistical reports, government reports, journals, books)

- Rs 3000 /-

Paper and print outs

- Rs 700 /-


- Rs 300 /-


- Rs 500 /-


- Rs 2000 /-


- Rs 500 /-


Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, learn what sexual harassment is and how
to prevent it

Lets talk about sexual harassment in the workplace, by Roberta Matuson, Forbes

Sexual Harassment still pervasive at the workplace, By Pamela Mahabeer

Readers Respond: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, By Linda Lowen

How Unpaid Interns Arent Protected Against Sexual Harassment, by Blair

Hickman and Christie Thompson, ProPublica