Most of us had at least one “nightmare” job during our teenage years. Whether the work was boring, exhausting or low-paying, it at least made us appreciate the value of getting a good education (to be spared from such jobs in the future). Unfortunately, some teenagers suffer indignities on the job that no one should ever be subjected to, including sexual harassment.
Employers have a responsibility to protect all workers from sexual harassment. It should go without saying that this responsibility is especially serious when it comes to workers who are minors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission highlighted this responsibility when it filed a lawsuit against the grocery store chain Kroger, which has locations across the country, including here in California. The lawsuit was recently settled for $42,500.
According to news sources, the harassment victim was a teen girl who worked at a Kroger location in Arkansas (it is unclear if she was a minor). Shortly after being hired, the teen started being harassed by a male co-worker. The company allegedly ignored the young woman’s complaints and failed to take “corrective action against the harasser until [the victim’s] final complaint.”
In the settlement agreement, Kroger agreed to pay $42,500 in restitution. It also agreed to improve anti-harassment training and education at the location where the teen worked.
Unfortunately, teenagers are often targets of workplace sexual harassment for several reasons: They are at the bottom of the workplace hierarchy, they may be temporary workers and they may not know what their rights are. For all these reasons and more, the EEOC tries to reach out to teenage employees with its Youth@Work website.
If you have a teenager at home, please take time to educate them about their rights and resources in the workplace. And if you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, please discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney.