As schools are letting out for the summer, some high school and college students will turn their attention to earning some cash during their break. Being new to the workplace, many students are unaware of the laws in place to protect them and others from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. These laws protect workers who are employed by companies of a certain size, regardless of whether the job is full-time, part-time, or seasonal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gives the following advice to young workers:
Don’t Discriminate: You should not treat your co-workers unfairly or harass them because of their race, skin color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy) religion, disability, age (age 40 or older) or genetic information. For example, you should not tell sexual or racial jokes at work or tease people because they are different from you.
Report Discrimination: You should tell your company about any unfair treatment or harassment. Find out if your company has a policy on discrimination that specifies who you should contact about these issues.
Request Workplace Changes: You have a responsibility to tell your company if you need a workplace change because of your religious beliefs or disability. Your request does not have to be in writing, but you must provide enough information so your company can determine how to help you.
In a case settled in 2012, an 18-year-old female said she was subjected to sexual harassment by a male cashier while working at a Dairy Queen. During the six months that she worked there, the harassment didn’t stop, even after she told her manager. She called the police, who came to investigate while she was working. The manager then fired her while the police were there. She filed a claim with the EEOC, and a complaint was filed alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. The parties settled the case, with the company agreeing to pay $17,500, to provide sexual harassment training to its managers and supervisors, to post a notice about the lawsuit, and to report any additional complaints to the EEOC.
The EEOC also reminds younger workers that they also have to be cognizant of workplace discrimination when they are in a managerial or supervisory position. It is important to not discriminate against employees because of their race, religion, gender, age, or disability. If an employee comes to you with a complaint, you must act upon it and cannot retaliate against the employee who reported it. If an employee has a special situation due to a disability or religious beliefs, accommodations should be made if reasonably possible. If a young manager or supervisor is unclear as to what is a reasonable accommodation, he or she should talk to someone with more seniority about how to handle the situation.
Part-time or seasonal jobs can be beneficial to young people. They provide income and a taste of what it will be like when entering the workforce on a full-time, permanent basis. Unfortunately, young workers can also be introduced to the ugly side of the workplace – harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination – at a time in their lives when they may not know how to handle it. If you or your teen have been a victim of any of these negative scenarios, an Indiana or Kentucky employment attorney like those at Charles W. Miller & Associates can help you determine what needs to be done.