Anyone can experience discrimination and hostile conditions in the workplace. However, some workers tend to become targets more frequently than others. The law recognizes several protected classes, specifically because these individuals tend to experience greater rates of discrimination and unfair treatment. These protected classes include gender, race, national origin and religious affiliation.
One group that is a particularly vulnerable target for sexual harassment is not associated with a legally protected class. However, the increasing rates at which members of this group are being targeted make the protection of this particular class worth considering. According to a recent study, teens are increasingly targeted for sexual harassment in the workplace.
In particular, more than half of female teens and more than a third of male teens have experienced sexual harassment at their low-paying jobs in the last year, according to the sample analyzed by researchers at Illinois State University. Interestingly, the perpetrators of this teen-focused sexual harassment are more likely to be older workers rather than peers.
The study’s lead author recently explained that “We suspect that adolescents may be targeted more frequently than adults given their relatively low status and power in the workplace. They may also be less comfortable reporting the harassing behavior or they may be unsure about the reporting procedures in their organizations.”
Teens should understand that even though their age does not place them in a protected class that the law does protect them generally from sexual harassment in the workplace. They do not need to remain quiet if they become the objects of undesired sexual attention, coercion or lewd behavior. Teen workers should not hesitate to bring their concerns to the attention of an attorney if their superiors ignore their concerns or retaliate against them for speaking up.
Source: Yahoo News, “Teens More Likely to Face Sexual Harassment on the Job,” Chad Brooks, Dec. 26, 2012