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Study shows higher rates of sexual harassment toward teen workers

It has traditionally been a sign of maturity and responsibility for teenagers to have a part-time job while still in high school. Many parents encourage their teens to seek gainful employment, both as a means of earning spending money and getting a taste of the "real world."

Unfortunately, the experience can sometimes be more harmful than helpful. According to the results of a recent study, teen employees working in retail stores, restaurants and other low-opportunity jobs are at a greater risk for becoming victims of sexual harassment than adult employees are. And the most frequent harassers are not customers but older co-workers.

Approximately 116 high-school teens participated in the study. Of these, 37 percent of males and 54 percent of females said they had been subjected to at least one sexual harassment incident in the previous two years.

Commenting on the results, the study's lead author explained: "We suspect that adolescents may be targeted more frequently than adults given their relatively low status and power in the workplace. They may also be less comfortable reporting the harassing behavior or they may be unsure about the reporting procedures in their organizations."

Rather than getting a head start on their careers, teen workers who are victims of sexual harassment may actually experience stunted personal and career development. Researchers say that sexual harassment results in lower job satisfaction, and could lead to lower grades in school and increased absenteeism.

The results of this study should be a wake-up call to all business owners and managers who hire teen employees. It is especially important to train these workers in how to spot and report inappropriate coworker behavior, and to cultivate a workplace environment where they feel free to speak up. Teenagers should also be carefully managed to ensure that they are not left alone in dangerous or compromising situations with their older co-workers.

Source: Yahoo News, "Teens More Likely to Face Sexual Harassment on the Job," Chad Brooks, Dec. 26, 2012

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