Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seasonal Employees and Harassment: What’s An Employer To Do?

In our third installment of the Workplace Report’s “Get In Shape For Summer” series, it is important for employers to keep in mind the dangers facing seasonal employees include not only physical injuries, but also harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Since seasonal employees are usually significantly younger and more inexperienced than their fellow workers or supervisors, they are often targets of unlawful discrimination and harassment.

Discrimination happens to employees of all ages, but offenders sometimes single out teen workers because they think they won’t know any better.  Often times, teens or college-age workers don’t know that they are being harassed or that it is illegal, and don’t know what they should do about it. In addition, even if they do know they are being harassed in the workplace, many don’t report it because they think it could cost them their jobs. 

It is important for employers to inform seasonal employees that harassment and discrimination apply equally to all workers, regardless of whether the worker is seasonal, part-time or under the age of 18. Employers can educate seasonal employees about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace by providing them with copies of all anti-discrimination policies and reporting procedures. It is also a good practice to have the employee sign a written acknowledgement that they received a copy of the policy, read it and were given the opportunity to ask questions about it. 

In addition, a training session for all seasonal employees on harassment and discrimination prevention at the time of hiring for the season is also recommended. Employers should keep a record of the training attendees and consider video-taping the training so that it can be shown to anyone hired later in the season or those unable to attend the group training session.

That way, the employee will know what is acceptable behavior in the workplace and where to go for help.  A copy of the employer’s policy and complaint manager contact information should also be posted in a visible location for all employees to see.   

These proactive steps to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination through education, awareness and training of seasonal employees will serve an employer well and are always worthwhile for both the employee and employer.