01 Jun Teens and Workplace Harassment
I landed my first “real” job at 16 years old!!! My best friend and I applied for the position of a dishwasher at a local eatery, and we were both hired! We were about to be co-workers! I was elated! My new employer was DeFazio’s Italian Restaurant which was about 30 feet from my home! My mother was always welcome to walk over, enter through the back door, and into the kitchen to speak with me as I was scrubbing pots and pans that seemed to be bigger than me! I have many fond memories of my first job! I didn’t realize how fortunate I was. I had the opportunity to focus on what it meant to have a strong work ethic and to learn from the trusted adults around me.
Mary Ann Taylor- KCHR Education & Outreach Supervisor offers the following advice to families and teens:
Joining the workforce can be an exciting time in the life of a teen. It often signals the beginning of independence and responsibility. It can also be a time of uncertainty. Teens are often faced with workplace situations they have not ever encountered and navigating those waters can be scary and intimidating. One such challenge is workplace harassment, whether sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal.
Signs families might observe are unwillingness to work certain shifts, uncharacteristic tardiness, feigned illness, quitting unexpectedly, mood swings before and after working shifts. If you are a teen or the family of a teen who is being harassed, or you observe the signs just mentioned, there is something you can do.
- First, speak with your teen, or encourage them to speak with a trusted source.
- Obtain a copy of the employer’s policies on harassment and reporting such behavior.
- Request a meeting with the supervisor or with Human Resources if the harasser is the supervisor.
- Follow company policy as written. You may also wish to seek legal counsel.
- If you feel the harassment is because of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, disability, religion, or smoking status, call the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. www.kchr.ky.gov (502) 595-4024
Individuals regardless of age, have a right to work free of harassment and retaliation. If you are a teen looking for employment this summer, here are some things you and your family can do to make it a good experience.
- Meet your supervisor
- Make sure your parents or trusted adult has that supervisor’s contact information
- Be aware of your environment
- Obtain your personal copy of the employee policy and procedure documents, or handbook
- Report any harassing behavior immediately to the appropriate person
In addition to Mary Ann Taylor’s advice teenagers and their loved ones can learn more about discrimination and harassment by accessing the KCHR General Brochure (English) (Spanish), Employment Brochure, and the Equal Opportunity Poster (English) (Spanish).
There is much to consider when entering the workforce and teenagers should be informed and feel safe. The following additional resources may provide answers to questions and ease anxiety.
Tools for Young Workers
- Utilize the US Department of Labor Young Workers Toolkit. Use this comprehensive toolkit to help you make the most of your work experiences and learn about your rights and responsibilities.
- Visit Youth@Work, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website for youth in the workforce to learn about different types of discrimination affecting young workers and what you can do to help prevent discrimination in the workplace.
- View Kentucky Government Personnel Harassment Prevention Do’s & Don’ts poster.
- Identify risk factors for harassment.
- Prepare for employment with PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment for youth with disabilities.
- Access information about federal and state labor laws that apply to young workers on YouthRules.
- Learn how to report workplace harassment incidents.
- Recognize workplace sexual harassment.
- Consider the challenges teenagers face in the workplace.
- Understand the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition of harassment.
Having a summer job can be a wonderful learning experience for young people. They will likely learn important lifelong skill sets about budgeting, time management, and working with others. There are many employers out there who appreciate their young employees and treat them with respect. Families who take time to research before their teens jump into summer employment will have a better understanding of their rights and know that they deserve to feel safe at work. Keep in mind, today’s teen workforce will be tomorrow’s leaders, what teens learn from their employers now could be what they model later in life.
Image – Upsplash – Matt Noble