Record Producer Accused of Sexual Harassment of Interns
Two former employees of a Los Angeles-based record label have sued their former employer on multiple grounds, including sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Tomas Cookman, founder and CEO of music label Nacional Records, is accused of frequently making sexually suggestive remarks to Claudia Becerra and Montserrat Perez, sending them emails containing pornographic images, making sexual propositions, and trying to intimidate them into acquiescing to sex. In addition, he is accused of breaching California labor laws by describing them as interns and failing to pay them wages.
Are interns protected by anti-harassment laws?
Although Ms. Becerra and Ms. Perez should properly be described as employees, the case raises the question of whether unpaid interns are provided with the same legal protections as regular employees. Federal anti-discrimination laws and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act both provide anti-harassment protection specifically to employees. In order to qualify as an employee, you need to be paid wages by an employer. As a result, California courts have ruled that unpaid interns are not afforded the same legal protections against sexual harassment as employees.
Do I have any other recourse?
Unfortunately, as an unpaid intern, you do not have a legal right to compensation under labor laws. However, you may still have other means of protecting yourself and others against hostile or intimidating behavior, depending on the circumstances. For example, if your internship was organized through a university, you should report the events to the careers counselor and ensure that the company does not get sent interns in future. Furthermore, in some situations, you may be entitled to bring a criminal complaint against the offender for crimes of a sexual nature.
For advice on how to effectively respond to sexual harassment and other intimidating behavior, make an appointment with the employment discrimination lawyers at The Ruttenberg Law Firm, PC.