As we grow from children into young adults, each person experiences important milestones, including many “firsts.” You may always remember your first love, your first kiss, your first day of high school and your first car. And no matter how far you rise in your eventual career, you’ll likely remember your very first job.
Sadly, many teenagers have experiences at their first job that stunt their career growth and damage their emotional and psychological health. Too many teens doing part-time and seasonal work become victims of sexual harassment. Moreover, they are often the least likely employees to report harassment and the most likely to be negatively impacted as a result of it.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is widely underreported even among adults. For a number of reasons, teen workers are even less likely to report that they were sexually harassed by a co-worker or supervisor. Common reasons for not reporting sexual harassment include:
Although understandable, silence on the issue of sexual harassment makes the problem much worse. Individuals who commit sexual harassment are generally not one-time offenders. As such, they will almost certainly go on to harass others if their behavior is not reported and punished.
Sexual harassment victims – especially teenagers – often suffer serious psychological and emotional harm that can disrupt all aspects of their life. Their school performance may slip; they may start wearing baggy clothes and avoiding regular grooming in order to discourage sexual attention and they may be fearful of pursuing other jobs in the future.
If you are the parent of a teenager or an employer with teens on the payroll, it is imperative that you educate them about their workplace rights. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated anywhere, particularly among the youngest and most vulnerable workers.
Source: Oregon Live, “Young workers least likely to find help, yet suffer deepest scars: Teen sexual harassment,” Laura Gunderson, April 1, 2014