Outrage over unpaid interns' lack of protection from harassment

unpaid intern mosby comment
Hundreds of readers reacted to a court ruling that unpaid interns weren't protected from sexual harassment.

The news that unpaid interns are not protected from sexual harassment has sparked a wave of outrage.

Hundreds of readers took to social media and the comments section of CNNMoney to express shock and dismay over last week's New York court ruling that unpaid interns couldn't bring a sexual harassment claim because she is not considered an employee.

"This is an insane ruling," one commenter wrote.

Another said, "We extend civil rights protections to people in society, despite their socio-economic class. How can we legally or morally justify not offering protection to interns? It's counter intuitive."

Related: Unpaid interns not protected from sexual harassment

One commenter made the point that the ruling is maddening because so many young people are dependent on unpaid internships in order to gain experience and get a foot in the door.

"I can see why some college graduates will work for McDonald's (MCD). At least they get paid AND have some legal protection from harassment."

Some people said the ruling reminded them of the three-fifths clause that was part of the U.S. Constitution, until slavery was abolished in 1865. The clause stated that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a citizen represented in Congress.

"At first I thought this can't be right," Williiam Mosby wrote. "But I guess it's okay to treat unpaid workers (in former times known as 'slaves') any way you want after all."

Related: White House under pressure to pay its interns

But not all readers were angry over the ruling. Some self-proclaimed devil's advocates argued that unpaid interns should have less of an issue walking away from a job compared to a paid employee.

"If someone isn't receiving any compensation, they shouldn't have any fear of losing their income," Lobelia wrote. "Unpaid interns who experience harassment are in a better position to simply walk away than paid employees who might be desperate enough to suffer along rather than risk losing the income."

I was an unpaid White House intern
I was an unpaid White House intern

Many of the arguments engendered fierce debate. One reader responded that unpaid interns are getting school credit for the work they do, so they aren't really free to walk away from their jobs.

Another responded by saying that simply walking away is not an option without consequence.

"I've quit an internship from abusive conditions before, and haven't worked in the field in that city since," the reader wrote. "Blacklisting is alive and well. Even walking away from from a voluntary post can have consequences for one's future.

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