It's summer, and many teens will be entering the workforce for the first time.
It's an unfortunate reality that some of them may become victims of sexual harassment by superiors or older co-workers who see them as vulnerable, unaware of their rights and unlikely to speak up. The offenders are of course correct in all of those assumptions, which is why Fontana Sexual Harassment Attorney Houman Fakhimi encourages parents to take a few minutes to discuss sexual harassment with your child who is new to the workforce.
Talk about what it is, how to recognize it and what your child should do if he or she encounters it. Most importantly, they must know that such behavior is not a normal part of working, and it not something that they must or should tolerate.
Several recent cases prosecuted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission illustrate just how unfortunately common such cases are.
The first is out of Hawaii, involving a national Chinese restaurant chain. The EEOC reported that the company recently agreed to pay $150,000 to settle claims that at least three teenage girls were sexually harassed while working there between 2007 and 2009.
The culprit was allegedly a male kitchen supervisor. The workers who were victimized were between the ages of 17 and 19 years-old. They were subjected to daily barrages of sexual comments, sexually vulgar language and repeated sexual advances at every shift.
The girls did the right thing by informing higher ups within the company about what was going on, in an attempt to get the supervisor to stop. However, the EEOC claims in its suit, EEOC v. Panda Express Inc., no corrective action was ever taken.
The lawsuit was filed last year by the EEOC's regional office in Los Angeles, but was settled in May, just ahead of trial. In addition to paying the fine, the chain has agreed to revise all of its anti-harassment policies and to train all general managers in the state regarding those revised policies. An in-house equal employment opportunity coordinator must also be designated to ensure compliance is met.
Another recent case involves a pizza shop in Maryland. According to the EEOC complaint, the owner of the restaurant reportedly subjected numerous female employees - some of them teenagers - to sexual harassment. This included touching them on their buttocks, backs and shoulders, as well as rubbing his genitalia on the buttocks of female employees, leering at them and making comments about their bodies. He repeatedly used crude sexual innuendos, made sexually suggestive remarks and often asked for massages.
In some instances, he pressured female workers to stay later after their shift to drink alcohol with him. If they refused, he would act offended. One of the women reportedly said that the owner pressured her to drink until she passed out, which she later came to believe was an attempt on his part to sexually assault her.
In another instance, an employee said the owner invited her to his home to discuss a management opportunity. Instead, she says, she was drugged and sexually assaulted.
Several employees say it was so bad they were forced to quit. Management was made aware of the problem, and yet nothing was done to address it.
Teens need to be made aware that they have a right to work in an environment that is free from any type of harassment and that they have a right to complain about job treatment that is believed to be illegal without fear that you will be discriminated against for it.
If you believe your teenager has been sexually harassed at work, call us today.