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Mayor Signs Bill Aimed at Preventing Intern Discrimination, But Critics Say It Doesn't Go Far Enough

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Advocates for interns are saying that Mayor Bill de Blasio should have vetoed a bill that the mayor argues will protect interns from workplace harassment, as the bill's critics say the legislation doesn't go nearly far enough. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

The third bill Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed into law is generating a good deal of backlash from advocates for the very people the bill purports to help: interns.

The mayor said the legislation will shield interns from workplace harassment. It was drafted after a federal judge ruled in Manhattan last year that an unpaid intern could not sue for sexual harassment because she was not a paid employee.

"All interns are entitled to a workplace free from discrimination," de Blasio said. "Signing this important piece of legislation reaffirms this administration's commitment to aggressively defending human rights in our city.

However, some supporters of interns came out to City Hall Tuesday to urge the mayor not to sign the legislation.

"We proposed that Mayor de Blasio reject this bill as it exists and revise the language," said Greg Riestenberg of Intern Labor Rights.

The issue, the advocates argued, is that the legislation defines interns too narrowly, leaving many unpaid workers and volunteers without the workplace protections they say they need.

"Would it really be OK for a hospital to tell a prospective volunteer, 'Sorry, we only take whites,' or to say, 'Thanks for helping us out, but by the way, you're going to be sexually harassed every Wednesday and Friday,'" said Graig Gurian of Fair Play Legislation.

"We really are just advocating for just greater protection of all workers, all New York City workers, whether unpaid or not, whether intern or not," said Dedunu Suraweera of Intern Labor Rights.

The mayor did not take any questions at the bill signing.

"Our administration looks forward to working with the Council in the future to make sure all New Yorkers have the full protections of our human rights law," de Blasio said.

Some advocates for interns said they plan to push the City Council to adopt another piece of legislation that would protect everyone in the workplace from discrimination.

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