Student Interns and Sexual Harassment

Topics: Intern, Employment, Volunteer fire department Pages: 5 (1948 words) Published: February 24, 2014
I started by analyzing the problem by listing key facts and possible search terms. Possible key facts include that she was in a school-sponsored internship, that Pepper supervised her in several areas, that she was not paid, and that she received various benefits including use of the company car, participation in the firm’s life insurance policy and training. Possible Google search terms might include “intern(ship),” “Title VII employee,” “unpaid,” and “workplace.” Because this case will be brought in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, it will be in the 7th Circuit. I found this out by Googling “Circuit Court map.” The results yielded the U.S. Courts’ “Court Locator” map.

I decided to start by looking for some secondary sources to get an idea of what the courts were doing on this topic. I thought it might be easier to start with Google. In my initial Google search using the phrase “workplace sexual harassment internship,” I found nothing really of note. I decided to make two changes to my search. First, I remembered that I should be searching in Google Scholar. Second, I added “Title VII” to the search phrase. Then I limited the results to articles. The first few articles didn’t seem to be relevant, but two articles came up that would prove to be very helpful. The first one I read was from the Harvard Women’s Law Journal and was called Legal limbo of the student intern: the responsibility of colleges and universities to protect student interns against sexual harassment. It talked about how student interns fell between Title VII and Title IX, and was somewhat informative, but I felt like it wasn’t exactly on point with our issue, since we aren’t concerned about Title IX issues. The Second article I found, however, was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Adapting Title VII to Modern Employment Realities: The Case for the Unpaid Intern, from the Fordham Law Review, went into great detail on the legislative and judicial history of whether or not unpaid interns qualify as employees under Title VII.

I got two major things from this article. I found two cases that I would make a good starting point for my Westlaw research, O’Connor v. Davis, and Haavistola . Community Fire Co. of Rising Sun, Inc. This article also keyed me into the idea that there are two types of cases involving the definition of the term “employee” under Title VII. One group of cases differentiates between employees and independent contractors and the other between employees and volunteers. It is the latter group that we are interested in. I also got a new search term to add to my list, “volunteer.”

I decided it was time to start searching on Westlaw. After seeing it in the Fordham Law Review article, I decided to start with O’Connor v. Davis. From the synopsis of the case, it looked like this case would be right on point. There, a college student sued the state and the hospital where she worked as a student intern. She claimed she had been sexually harassed there. The court said that where no financial benefit is obtained by the purported employee from the employer, no “plausible” employment relationship can be said to exist. This already looked to be the case that was going to be the most on point. I noticed that it was distinguished by U.S. v. City of New York, so I decided to look into that case when I finished with one. While reading through the keynotes, Keynote 6 jumped out at me as being the most relevant. It says that “direct or indirect enumeration” is the important factor in determining whether or not an employment relationship exists. The note also compares this case from the Haavistola case, so I decided to go to that case after I check into U.S. v. City of New York.

Keynote 5 from the O’Connor case also speaks about how compensation is an essential component in determining whether or not an employment relationship exists. It lists a number of cases on that topic: Graves v. Women’s...

References: of some of the cases I had already found.
I started with Bryson, since it had already been so helpful, but that turned out to be an obvious mistake. Because it is such a recent case, there were not any cases that cited it that were of any help. I decided to search the Neff case next, which was slightly more fruitful. There, I found Holder v. Town of Bristol. This is a district court case from the Northern District of Indiana, no it isn’t binding, but at least it is in the same circuit.
Having found at least on case within the circuit, I decided to try and find more cases that dealt specifically with internships, since most of the cases I had found dealt with volunteer fire fighters. I though the local place to start would be the O’Connor case, since it has been cited by so many of the cases I have found and is one of the only ones I have come across that deals specifically with a student intern. I went to the case, and decided to look at the citing references to see if I could find any that dealt specifically with interns. From those results, I narrowed it down to cases, then to federal cases. I found one case that looked promising, Evans v. Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, but as I read it, it turned out that it was discussing a D.C. law, not Title VII.
I then started searching through the citing references for the dozen or so cases I have piled up, looking for any that involve students, internships, or both. I found that I kept running across several of the cases that I had found, so I decided that I had either gotten all of the main cases, or I had hit a dead end, so I thought I might try a few other methods.

II. Authorities
III. Conclusion
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