What if you’re sexually harassed at work?
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Since it involves treating someone differently because of his or her gender, it’s discrimination and is against the law. Harassment can happen anywhere – at school, on the job or in the community.
In 1998 the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case involving a teen lifeguard in Florida who had been subjected to uninvited and offensive touching and comments from her supervisors. The court stated that sexual harassment so severe as to create an abusive working environment is prohibited. The court said that the frequency of the conduct had to be considered, as well as whether it was physically threatening or humiliating, and whether it interfered with the employee’s work performance.
The court further held that supervisors are charged with maintaining a productive, safe environment – that a pervasively hostile work environment of sexual harassment is never authorized.
Regardless of your age, you have rights at work. Offensive sexual language or gestures that create a hostile or abusive work environment don’t have to be tolerated. When you enter the workforce, if you’re harassed by someone on the job, report it immediately or at the very least, tell your parents or guardian. For more information on this subject, take a look at the federal government’s Youth@Work Initiative at: www.youth.eeoc.gov/
Note: In April, 2008, a McDonald’s in Denver, Colorado agreed to pay $505,000.00 to settle claims that a group of teenage girls were subjected to unwanted touching and lewd comments by a male supervisor. In 2005, a large movie theater chain in North Carolina paid $765,000.00 to settle claims that a male supervisor sexually harassed a group of male teenage employees.