University of Chicago Legal Forum


Despite the prevalence of internships in today’s economy, the law is unsettled as to whether unpaid interns are entitled to harassment and discrimination protections under federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars harassment and discrimination from the workplace, but only towards employees. The circuit courts are divided as to what test to apply in determining whether unpaid interns qualify as employees and fall within the scope of Title VII. This Comment argues that the primary beneficiary test the Second Circuit adopted in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. best addresses this question by evaluating whether an internship is primarily educational. An unpaid intern has not yet succeeded in bringing a Title VII challenge; however, this Comment argues that the primary beneficiary analysis could support an avenue for recovery under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. This Comment demonstrates that if the primary purpose of an internship is educational, then the internship should qualify as an “education program or activity” under Title IX, and therefore protections against gender-based harassment and discrimination come into effect.

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