EEOC’s Youth@Work Initiative

In September of 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) added new materials to its Youth@Work initiative. The initiative began in 2004 with the goal of educating working-age young people about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. It includes a series of guides and materials for educators that show examples of illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace and explain to students what they can do to protect themselves.

Problems like sexual harassment, race discrimination and religious discrimination still exist in workplaces in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. While workers of all ages may be subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace, because of age and inexperience, young people may be less likely to recognize these behaviors as illegal or know what to do to protect themselves. Young people may also be unaware that laws exist to prevent retaliation against employees who report infractions.

If you are the parent or guardian of a teen who will be entering the workforce, talk to them about potential workplace harassment or discrimination. You may wish to cover topics such as:

  1. Behavior may be classified as sexual harassment if unwelcome sexual advances of any kind occur—physical or verbal. The first step is for the individual to stand up and tell the wrong-doer to stop.
  2. Discrimination or harassment may come from a manager, coworker or even a customer. The employer has a duty to protect employees from this behavior.
  3. Racial or religious discrimination may be very subtle, but if it is happening it is still illegal.
  4. Wage and hour laws may limit the number of hours minors may work. Learn more about the laws in your state so your teen is not taken advantage of by his or her employer.
  5. Explain that there are options to report an employer’s illegal practices, as well as laws that prohibit retaliation against an employee for reporting these practices.

Finally, let your teen know they can come to you to talk about any situation that makes them uncomfortable. Teens need to know that there are adults who will stand up for them and ensure they are protected. If you have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you may wish to speak with a North Carolina employment attorney to learn your rights.

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