The story of sexual harassment in the workplace has been around since the beginning of workplaces. Yet, this past year has seen an explosion of accusations, resignations, and renewed policies thanks to the #MeToo Movement. People, particularly women, who once felt too vulnerable to speak up against sexual misconduct have been emboldened. These new voices have exposed a tragic pattern in workplaces across the country, and in doing so have revealed possibly the most vulnerable group of all workers: teenagers.
A Wall Street Journal report recently uncovered the concerns many parents face sending their teenagers into the workplace as the season for summer jobs is upon us. The fact that so many people are talking about sexual harassment in the workplace, which has led to stricter policies and more accountability, could lend some protection to teenagers who are starting their first jobs. However, our experienced employment attorneys know change takes time, and the problem is far from being solved.
The article examined the food service industry in particular, in which 18 percent of workers are teenagers. This industry has also been the source of many Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits being filed on the behalf of teenagers regarding sexual harassment offenses. Food service can involve a lot of one-on-one time between the employee and an array of managers and customers, leading to increased opportunities for inappropriate comments or behavior.
In California, anyone under the age of 18 must have a permit to employ and work, per CA Education Code Title 2 Article 6, Section 49160. This permit is issued by a minor’s school district after a form is signed by the prospective employer and the minor’s parents or guardians. These precautions are in place with the hopes of preventing children from being exploited by a workplace or being overworked to the point of affecting their school responsibilities. However, it doesn’t prepare teenagers for what they might encounter while on the job. General naiveté can make teenagers an easy target for predators at work, both by employers and customers. Teens might be more afraid to come forward with reports, or not be aware when a certain behavior is not normal or acceptable, which can shape how they view authority and appropriate behavior throughout their careers. They might also be confused if they find sexual advances toward them to be exciting, but age of consent in California is still 18, and adults crossing that line are doing wrong regardless of the willingness of the teenager.
For many parents, the first instinct is to shield their teenagers from such experiences at all costs. However, as the #MeToo Movement has taught us all, sexual misconduct can happen anywhere to anyone, and not everyone can afford to avoid work situations that might put them in harm’s way. That’s why we must all embrace a two-tiered approach to 1) educate and 2) fight back. Our Orange County sexual harassment attorneys are proud to helping our clients with the Step 2: fighting back. Our legal team is ready to help you combat workplace sexual harassment and do our part to put an end to this unconscionable cycle once and for all.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Information on Minors and Employment, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
More Blog Entries:
Report: Sexual Harassment Rampant in Service Industry, March 11, 2017, Orange County Employment Lawyers Blog