EEOC Protecting Teenagers | DCR Workforce Blog

EEOC Protecting Teenagers

Youth at WorkThe EEOC has taken upon itself to protect a vulnerable group which lacks experience and knowledge of worker rights –The Youth@Work program protects the interests of teenagers and young workers.

The EEOC’s objectives in the program are twofold:

1. Educating young workers about their employment rights as well as responsibilities Enforcing the duty of employers to create positive work environments for youngsters

The EEOC has found that many younger workers accept discrimination and harassment, because they do not understand their rights and have no clear perception of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. The EEOC’s website details some cases where its intervention had helped some youngsters to get relief and justice (and in some cases, huge payoffs) in situations where they were silently withstanding harassment, or watching it happen without calling attention to it.  The site provides training manuals and videos to educate and inform this worker group.

Examples cited on the EEOC website include:

  • Fast Food Chain: According to some, every chain restaurant has all faced charges of harassment on the premises from workers. The EEOC posts the information on the harassment faced by a girl who worked for Burger King from a supervisor, for which she is being paid $150,000 as compensation.

Note to Employers: It pays not to ignore a complaint from anyone when there is a report of abuse.

  • A Grocery Store in New Jersey: One young employee in his teens had to quit his job to escape harassment from a woman supervisor, while another tried to lodge a complaint and actually got fired for ‘unprofessional conduct’.

Note to Employers: The EEOC brought charges in this case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as the harassment was the result of gender.

  • A Restaurant in Pennsylvania: In this case, a young girl was asked to report to duty alone and was assaulted by her supervisor – and the General Manager laughed at her and discredited her when she reported it the next day – which made her go to the police.

Note to Employers: The employer was penalized for violating federal law by not protecting the employee and firing the supervisor immediately for not training the staff against indulging in such practices.

  • A Fast Food Restaurant in Kansas: The store manager harassed a girl, and was sentenced to 8 years in prison; after which 3 more workers admitted to having been harassed similarly.  All this happened in spite of a work place policy which clearly set out escalation processes in case of facing any harassment – because the workers had no knowledge of it!

Note to Employers: Apart from a monetary penalty, the employer was made to apologize to the worker, train all employees on what constitutes harassment, and post signs about the rights of the employees to a positive work environment.

  • Bagel Shop in California: The management ignored many complaints against the store manager’s behavior to the workers, most of whom were between 16-18.

Note to Employers: Employer was guilty of failure to take prompt and appropriate action against the manager. EEOC directed them to incorporate a workplace policy to eliminate workplace discrimination and harassment, while training the workers on the policy and how to seek protection.

  • Golf Club in California: Young women working at a golf club faced lewd behavior from co-workers and were told by other female colleagues that there is nothing they can do to stop it, until the EEOC was called in. The harassers were dismissed and the club had to train its staff on appropriate and acceptable behavior.

Note to Women in Similar Situation: There is no need to be afraid of being held responsible for or causing any of the harassment.

It is now up to the employers to ensure that their workplaces are conducive to provide freedom from worker harassment. They must use strong guidelines and stringent penalties to dissuade those in positions of power from abusing it. Young workers, who lack experience, must be encouraged to report any harassment rather than quitting in shock and embarrassment.

An employer is, any day, better off having the workers coming in to them to complain against any improper practices in the workplace. If the workplace does not put supportive policies which make it possible, they might opt for the help being offered by the EEOC – and subject the employer to serious punitive measures.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.