Teenage Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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For millions of teenagers working in the American workforce, being sexually harassed is not an uncommon occurrence in their daily work environment. Unfortunately, teenagers in the workforce become particularly vulnerable to acts of harassment because they lack awareness about their rights as an employee and do not have enough work experience or maturity to address situations that arise in the work environment. These teenagers are usually part-time workers, overlooked for training, view their supervisors as having the ultimate authority over their job, and are more likely to be unaware of harassment policies than other workers within the workforce. Despite all of these factors, more and more organizations in industries like retail (i.e. Kmart), entertainment (i.e. movie theatres), and food services (i.e. McDonalds) to be specific, have turned to teenagers as a key source of labor. In doing so, these organizations have exposed themselves to the liability of protecting the youth that they employ and must take even greater measures to prevent these teenagers from being subjected to a hostile work environment. Where these organizations fail to protect the youth that they employ, the federal (and State) government, by way of passing labor laws and through the administration of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), attempts to ensure that teens are fairly educated and represented if such a hostile work environment occurs. It is through the EEOC’s guardianship that the government has recognized as well as acknowledged a need to protect teenagers from harassment in the workplace and have more recently been active in taking action against organizations that fail to do so. Despite these efforts, an increasing number of organizations continue to employ teenagers and have either learned to adopt rules to regulate their work environment or have allowed such hostile work environments to further exist without the fear of punishment or consequence. As a result, defending teenagers has and will become a more prevalent occurrence within the workforce that will require more awareness by employers and more protections from Congress to ensure that an equal and safe work environment is being provided to all employees. Beginning with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938, Congress granted children (i.e. teens) the right to work while at the same time establishing a foundation of protections that directly affected this right within the American workforce. Under the original terms of the FLSA, it was not required that a parent give consent to their child in order for them to work but did limit the type and amount of work a child could perform. Specifically, it prohibited any person under the age of eighteen from performing hazardous work including those jobs that entailed mining, roofing, demolition, or operating a motor vehicle to name a few. Since its enactment, though, the FLSA has been amended several times and continues to evolve with changes in the American workforce. Many, if not all of State governments have supplemented the act with their own legislation that provides teens even greater protections if they were to enter into the workforce. Where the federal and state child labor laws differ, the law providing greater protections for children usually applies if an issue were to arise. Despite granting teenagers the right to work and undergoing several amendments, the FLSA itself still limits teenagers to perform jobs in industries that are non-hazardous. As a result, it forces them to enter or accept jobs within the workforce that are more commonly found within these industries (i.e. retail and food service) that have been known to fostering hostile work environments. In addition to the FLSA and with more of a focus on preventing workplace harassment, Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under Title VII, Congress specifically addresses discrimination based on sex...
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