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Are younger workers most vulnerable to sexual harassment?

Are younger employees, particularly those in their teen years, especially vulnerable to sexual harassment?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission certainly thinks so. One of the agency's directors in San Diego said that young workers can be more vulnerable to sexual harassment because they may be unaware of their rights under the law.

This statement came after a California District Court ordered the Mexicali Chicken & Salads restaurant based in El Centro to pay a young shift supervisor $27,692 to settle a harassment claim. The young female employee rejected a male manager's sexual advances and complained to another manager. She was then fired.

However, the problem may be more complex than young employees simply not knowing the laws designed to protect them. Experts think that there are a number of factors at play:

—Many teens get their start as young employees in the food service industry, which is rife with sexual harassment problems.

—The job are seasonal, so many teens drop the issue, figuring that they won't be returning to work at that job again anyhow.

—Teens and younger workers are too embarrassed by the behavior to report it. Some may even be manipulated into thinking that they are partly to blame for the harassment.

—If the job is a teen or young adult's first job, he or she may be afraid to rock the boat, want to make a good impression, or be concerned about future job prospects.

—Social media makes teens more accessible to their adult supervisors and co-workers in ways that previous generations were not. This allows sexual predators more opportunities to connect with their victim, often making the victim feel like she or he can't escape.

At least one expert believes that teens and young workers are most likely to report harassment when they have a strong adult in their life that will back them, or sometimes even push them into making the report. In general, experts tend to agree that the sexual harassment of young workers, particularly those who are still in their teen years, is under-reported.

It's important for anyone who has experienced sexual harassment on the job, at any age, to exercise their legal rights and stop the harassment. If you're unsure of what to do, consider contacting an attorney for advice.

Source: www.kyma.com, "El Centro restaurant ordered to pay in sexual harassment lawsuit," Nico Payne, Dec. 30, 2016

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