Associated Links

Selected academic research on sexual harassment and teenagers

Sexual harassment
of teens at work

"Sample cases: Where are working teens being sexually harassed... and suing for it?" interactive map 

PBS NOW-Schuster Institute
collaboration: televised
broadcast investigation of
"Teen Sexual Harassment
at Work"

"Summer Jobs Often Lead to Harassment," ABC's WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston's televised broadcast with  E.J. Graff, Associate Director, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism

Sexual harassment—
what is it?

"Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?" Good Housekeeping, June 2007

"Are Your Students Safe at Work?" Teachers College Record, July 21, 2009

The long, tortured history
of sexual harassment law—
Does it protect teens?

EEOC Youth At Work  

Civil litigation for sex
How does it work?

What if I’m being harassed? 

Responses to "Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?"

Selected academic research on sexual harassment and teenagers<

Suggestions for parents 

Archive of related news


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Selected academic
  research on sexual 
  harassment and teenagers  


 Click to follow link Teen Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Click to follow link Teens & Sexual Harassment
Click to follow link Adult Workplace Sexual Harassment
Click to follow link General Sexual Harassment
 Click to follow link Case Law

Teen Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, argues that employment law does not adequately protect teenagers. She explains that employment case law expects harassment victims to recognize harassment and to know about and know how to use the employers’ complaint and redress mechanisms. However, teenagers are often not mature enough to recognize harassment and address it appropriately. Employment law already treats minors as “lacking capacity” in many areas and this legal reasoning should be extended to increasing employers’ liability when teens are sexually harassed.

Selected articles:

“I can’t to I Kant: The sexual harassment of working adolescents, competing theories, and ethical dilemmas,” 70 Albany L. Rev.675 (2007).

“‘Developing capacity’: adolescent ‘consent’ at the workplace, at law, and in the sciences of the mind,“ 10 U.C. Davis J. Juvenile L. & Pol’y 1 (2006).

“Sex and the workplace: ‘Consenting’ adolescents and a conflict of laws,” 79 Wash. L. Rev. 471 (2004).

Excerpt: “[S]exual harassment may be a particular problem in the restaurant industry because restaurants often hire young, inexperienced workers. High employee turnover contributes to the problem, presumably because of monitoring difficulties and the need to train new employees continually… [R]estaurants often try to create an ‘entertainment atmosphere’ that can cloud the rules for appropriate conduct in the workplace.”

Susan Fineran is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Social Work and Women and Gender Studies.

Selected articles:

With James E. Gruber, "Youth at work: Adolescent employment and sexual harassment," Child Abuse & Neglect 33 (2009) 550–559.

"Adolescents at work: Gender issues and sexual harassment,” Violence Against Women, (8), 953-967 (2002).

Jason N. Houle, et al. “The Impact of Sexual Harassment on Depressive Symptoms during the Early Occupational Career,” Society and Mental Health 1:2, 89-105 (2011).

A longitudinal study that looks at the impact of sexual harassment during the beginning of one’s working life on young men and women’s physical and mental health, specifically depressive symptoms, using data from the Youth Development Survey.

Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen and Amy Blackstone, “Social class and workplace harassment during the transition to adulthood,” in J. T. Mortimer (Ed.), Social class and transitions to adulthood. New directions for child and adolescent development, 119, 85-98.

Abstract: Young disadvantaged workers are especially vulnerable to harassment due to their age and social class position. As young people enter the workforce, their experiences of, and reactions to, harassment may vary dramatically from those of older adult workers. Three case studies introduce theory and research on the relationship between social class and harassment of young workers. We suggest two mechanisms through which class may structure harassment experiences: (1) extremely vulnerable youth are directly targeted based on their social class origins, and (2) the type and condition of youth employment, which is structured by class background, indirectly affect experiences of harassment.

Teens and Sexual Harassment

American Association of University Women (AAUW):  

"Crossing the Line," 2011: Based on findings from a nationally representative survey conducted in May and June, 2011, this report presents the most comprehensive research to date on sexual harassment in grades 7-12 and reveals some sobering statistics about the prevalence of sexual harassment and the negative impact it has on students' education.

"Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School," 2001

Debbie Chiodo, et al."Impact of Sexual Harassment Victimization by Peers on Subsequent Adolescent Victimization and Adjustment: A Longitudinal Study," Journal of Adolescent Health 45 246–252 (2009).

This study of peer sexual harassment documents its negative impact on both females and males, including an examination of its long term effects. 2.5 years after the initial study, adolescents who had been victimized in 9th grade were at greater risk for further victimization in other forms of relationship violence as well as greater emotional distress, substance use, and violent delinquency.

Jennifer L. Petersen and Janet Shibley Hyde, “A longitudinal investigation of peer sexual harassment victimization in adolescence,” Journal of Adolescence 32:5, 1173-1188 (2009).

Provides results from a longitudinal study of peer sexual harassment amongst adolescents in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade. The study suggests that adolescent boys and girls are sexually harassed by their cross-gender peers at equal rates, but that male adolescents are much more likely than females to be harassed by same-gender peers. In addition, advanced pubertal status and high power were correlated with higher reported incidents of sexual harassment.

Adult Workplace Sexual Harassment

Theresa M. Beiner, is law professor at the William H. Bowen School of Law at University of Arkansas Little Rock. She teaches Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction, Employment Discrimination, Gender and the Law, and a Seminar on Sexual Harassment Law. Her research on sexual harassment in the workplace includes the following papers:

“Sexy Dressing Revisited: Does Target Dress Play a Part in Sexual Harassment Cases?” Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 14:125, 125-152.

This article examines the myth that provocative dress encourages or incites sexual harassment by using case studies of women who were sexually harassed in the workplace. Beiner finds that provocative dress may actually reduce a woman’s likelihood of being sexually harassed as a result of potential harassers’ view that women who dress in revealing clothing are more likely to be confident instead of submissive.

"Let the Jury Decide: The Gap Between What Judges and Reasonable People Believe is Sexually Harassing," 75 S. Cal. L. Rev. 791 (2002).

A discussion of what constitutes sexual harassment in the eyes of the public as opposed to the legal definitions.

"Using Evidence of Women's Stories in Sexual Harassment Cases," 24 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 117, (2001). 

"Sex, Science and Social Knowledge: The Implications of Social Science Research on Imputing Liability to Employers for Sexual Harassment," 7 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 273 (2001).

"The Misuse of Summary Judgement in Hostile Environment Cases," 34 Wake Forest L. Rev. 71, (1999).

Ben L. Erdreich, Beth S. Slavet, Antonio C. Amador: “Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace: Trends, Progress, Continuing Challenges,” U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (1995).

This survey, sent to 13,200 federal employees (8,000 responded), found that 44 percent of women and 19 percent of men said they had experienced some form of unwanted sexual attention in the previous two years. It also found that younger employees are significantly more likely to be harassed.

Robert A. Jackson and Meredith A. Newman: "Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace Revisited: Influences on Sexual Harassment by Gender," Public Administration Review, November/December 2004, Vol. 64, No. 6.

Emily A. Leskinen, Lilia M. Cortina, and Dana B. Kabat. “Gender Harassment: Broadening Our Understanding of Sex-Based Harassment at Work,” Law and Human Behavior. Published online: July 27, 2010.

This article examines gender harassment that does not include unwanted sexual advances. Such gender harassment also results in a variety of negative outcomes including psychological distress and consequences for success in one’s career. Greater awareness of instances of gender harassment without sexual harassment is necessary to address the wide-spread problem.

Catharine MacKinnon, acclaimed legal scholar and feminist, proposed the legal concept of sexual harassment in her groundbreaking 1979 book, "Sexual Harassment of Working Women." In 1980 the EEOC wrote this formulation into their regulations.

Kimberly T. Schneider, Suzanne Swan, and Louise F. Fitzgerald: "Job-Related and Psychological Effects of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Empirical Evidence From Two Organizations," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 82, No. 3, 401-415 (1997).

This article examines the significant negative consequences on the basis of both job-related and psychological outcomes for working women subjected to low, moderate, and high frequencies of sexual harassment. The results could not be attributed to individual differences in negative affective disposition, attitudes towards harassment, or general job stress.

Isis H. Settles, et al. “Frightened or Bothered: Two Types of Sexual Harassment Appraisals,” Social Psychological and Personality Science 000 (00), 1-9 (2011).

Settles distinguishes not only amongst severity of sexual harassment but also between two different ways the target appraises the harassment as either bothersome or frightening. The appraisal of the harassment as bothersome mediated the extent of men’s resultant psychological distress but not women’s. For both men and women, an appraisal of harassment as frightening mediated psychological distress. The study suggests that this may be the result of women’s acceptance of sexual harassment they view as merely bothersome because of their greater exposure to it.

General Work on Sexual Harassment

Amy Blackstone, Christopher Uggen, Heather McLaughlin have collaborated on several research articles focusing on sexual harassment. Blackstone is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Maine; Uggen is Distinguished McKnight Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota; and McLaughlin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

"Legal Consciousness and Responses to Sexual Harassment," Blackstone, Uggen, McLaughlin, Law & Society Review, 43:631-68 (2009).

"Sexual Harassment, Workplace Authority, and the Paradox of Power," Blackstone, Uggen, McLaughlin, (2009).

"Sexual Harassment Comes of Age: A Comparative Analysis of the United States and Japan," Christopher Uggen and Chika Shinohara, The Sociological Quarterly 50 (2009) 201–234.

"Sexual Harassment as the Gendered Expression of Power," Uggen and Blackstone, American Sociological Review, Vol. 69, No. 1, pp. 64-92 (2004).

Janet Sigal, Jane Braden-Maguire, Ivy Patt, Carl Goodrich, Carrol S. Perrino: "Effects of Type of Coping Response, Setting, and Social Context on Reactions to Sexual Harassment," Sex Roles, Vol. 48, Nos. 3/4, February 2003.

Ganga Vijayasiri, “Reporting Sexual Harassment: The Importance of Organizational Culture and Trust,” Gender Issues 25:1, 43-61 (2008).

Article discusses the many reasons why victims of unwanted sexual behavior are reluctant to use the internal grievance process to address these discriminatory behaviors.

Case Law

United States Supreme Court cases:

• In 1986, The Supreme Court declared sexual harassment to be sex discrimination, in Meritor v. Vinson. 

• In 1997, in Oncale v. Sundowner, Justice Scalia authored a unanimous decision saying that it is illegal sex discrimination when men sexually harass other men.

• In 1998, The Supreme Court established the Farragher/Ellerth standard, which says that employers—so long as they haven’t taken an “adverse employment action” against the victim—are not liable for sexual harassment if:

  • The employer has programs in place that try to prevent sexual harassment and respond appropriately when it happens and
  • When sexual harassment does happen, the victim fails to use the employer’s mechanisms to complain or to get “redress.”

The Farragher/Ellerth standard was derived from two cases, Farragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth. 

Key 7th Circuit decisions pertaining specifically to the sexual harassment of teenagers:

“Jane Doe” v. Oberweis Dairy

In his 2006 opinion, Circuit Judge Richard Posner in 2006 essentially said that a Jane Doe’s “consent” to sex  is no defense if she’s under the legal age of consent in a given state (see page 12 of his opinion and the following passage):

Because her consent to have sex with Nayman was, as a matter of law, ineffectual, this is a case of a worker subjected to nonconsensual sex by a supervisor…during, as well as arising from, the employment relation…

An employer of teens is not in loco parents, but he acts at his peril if he fails to warn their parents when he knows or should know that their children are at substantial risk of statutory rape by an older, male supervisor in circumstances constituting workplace harassment.

EEOC v. V&J Foods

In his 2007 opinion, Circuit Judge Richard Posner cites his earlier ruling, saying:

An employer is not required to tailor its complaint procedures to the competence of each individual employee. But it is part of V&J’s business plan to employ teenagers, part-time workers often working for the first time. Knowing that it has many teenage employees, the company was obligated to suit its procedures to the understanding of the average teenager. (Cf. Doe v. Oberweis Dairy) Here as elsewhere in the law the known vulnerability of a protected class has legal significance.

Last page update: November 16, 2011

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