Sexual harassment and teenage workers

While most Tennessee workers are aware of laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, teenagers at their first jobs might be less knowledgeable and more vulnerable. They might not have a strong awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment or what to do if it occurs. The American Association of University Women did a survey and found that more than half of girls in high school said they had experienced sexual harassment while working during the school year.

One 31-year-old woman says she was harassed as a 19-year-old at her first summer job in retail. She recalls that her manager scheduled shifts so that they were always closing the store alone. Although he was in his late 20s, married and had a pregnant wife, he would ask her if she would date him if he were not married. She said he also asked about her dating life. At one point, when she was talking to a customer, he came up and pressed his crotch against her hand behind the counter. She said she never told her parents about it and was still unsure about how she was protected in the workplace from harassment.

One sociology professor pointed out that it is in their jobs as teenagers that people begin to develop workplace norms. She said that early harassment experiences could cause financial stress, career changes and mistrust in colleagues.

Many workplaces have procedures in place for reporting sexual harassment, but people may still want to talk to an attorney before going through this process. This can help them understand their rights. This could be important because some companies still do not sufficiently investigate or respond to allegations of harassment. Some organizations will try to protect senior employees from such allegations. A person could also face retaliation for reporting harassment, including termination or being denied a promotion, and that is also prohibited.

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