Suggestions for Parents:

What you can do to prepare your teen
  for his or her first job

Before your teen starts work:


Ask her to check the atmosphere of the place whenever she applies for a job; she should note how employees are treated. 

 Checklist Explain the difference between flirting (enjoyed by both parties) and harassment (unwelcome sexual comments or physical contact).
 Checklist Emphasize that he should tell you if someone makes him uncomfortable, so you can talk about the best way to respond.
 Checklist Make sure she knows she can refuse an order that is not related to her job duties; for example, her supervisor can’t compel her to travel with him unless it’s explicitly part of the job.

Once your teenager is working:

Checklist  Ask him if you can drop by; let his supervisors see you. 
 Checklist Listen closely when your teen complains. Suppose she says something like, “Oh, work is a drag.” If you simply answer, “Well, yeah, work’s always a drag,” your teen may shut down, explains psychologist Christine Nicholson, Ph.D. Instead, keep talking. Find out why work’s a drag. If your daughter or son complains about a particular person or “creep,” ask her or him what’s creepy about this person. What about this person makes your teen feel uncomfortable?
 Checklist Be suspicious if a manager seems to favor your child, asking her to come in early or stay late “because she’s the best worker.” Another danger sign: He pays attention to her in a way that has nothing to do with the job, such as teaching her to drive.

If your teen is harassed on the job: 

Checklist  Immediately talk with his manager. If that person doesn’t take the situation seriously, call the next-higher-up. Keep going up the chain. Write down all names, phone numbers, dates, and times of your calls. Refer to these if you need to call back. Or send letters (by certified mail). 
 Checklist Stay on the case, even if your teen is uneasy. “You need to make clear to her that it’s not about her behavior, it’s about the guy’s,” explains Bonnie Sanchez, a clinical counselor who runs the Albuquerque Sex Offender Treatment Program in New Mexico.
 Checklist Let him quit if he’s uncomfortable; insist that he leave if he’s really upset or you feel the situation is risky. If your son or daughter does stay on the job, make sure her or she understands that this is not the time to be “nice.”
 Checklist Don’t let her think that she’s overreacting, even if the harasser tries to say it was “all in fun.” Remind her that she’s probably not the only victim. “If he’s doing it to you, he’s doing it to somebody else,” said a plaintiff in the Burger King case.
 Checklist Have him document the harasser’s behavior. He should keep a notebook and write down everything that is said or done, when and where it took place, and if there were others present.
 Checklist Tell her to take a picture if she can (perhaps with a cell phone) of any physical “evidence”—say, a welt where a towel was snapped against her.
 Checklist Suggest he talk to other employees and find out what their experiences have been. You may also want to talk to their parents.
 Checklist If you decide to sue, find an attorney who has expertise in sexual harassment or employment-discrimination law. Don’t delay—in every state, there are deadlines for filing, some as short as 180 days from the date of the last incident.

© Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. All rights reserved.