It’s been nearly a year since the #MeToo movement started with allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace leveled against powerful men. But in everyday life, teenagers and young adults in their first jobs are more susceptible to being harassed at work, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
NBC 6 interviewed one South Florida woman who said she was repeatedly harassed at work when she was 17 years old.
“Every day, whether it was verbal or physical, everyday something was happening,” said Sarah, who used an alias to protect her identity.
Sarah said she used to work at the Chipotle restaurant in Hollywood on the 1700 block of Sheridan Street. That’s where she said her manager acted inappropriately toward her starting on day one.
“I was tying my shoe and he started petting my head. I felt weird and humiliated. I didn’t know, being my first job and feeling naïve in the situation. I didn’t really understand what was going on. I knew it was definitely weird and unusual,” said Sarah. “From there it kind of escalated to verbal words and touching and grabbing and unclasping my bra strap.”
Sarah said she told other managers about what was happening, but the harassment didn’t stop. She worked there for one year. She said she continued working at Chipotle because of a college tuition program the company offers its employees.
But she eventually quit and filed a complaint with the EEOC. That led to a lawsuit against the company that is currently pending.
“What’s especially egregious is that Chipotle employs a lot of young women,” said Gary Costales, Sarah’s attorney. “These are their first jobs and when you start off your career in such a working environment, psychologists say that can be extremely damaging.”
NBC 6 reached out to Chipotle who sent a short statement saying it wouldn’t comment on a pending litigation.
Sarah’s attorney said her harassment never should have happened.
“Chipotle just did not have the controls in place to prevent this type of harassment,” said Costales. “They didn’t do the proper training.”
A 2016 EEOC report found that teenagers and young adults may be at a higher risk of being harassed due to less knowledge about laws and workplace norms. The federal agency posts videos and other resources to help understand their rights on the job.
As for Sarah, she is a few years older and hopes others can learn from what happened to her.
“I wouldn’t want somebody else having their first job to be forced to work in this environment and they don’t know what to do exactly,” said Sarah. “I didn’t know what to do.”
The EEOC also found that restaurant workers are victims of sexual harassment at a higher rate than other industries.
Workers at a Fort Lauderdale McDonald’s restaurant are taking part in a strike September 18th over the fast food chain’s sexual harassment policy. The lunchtime protest will be at the location on Sunrise just west of I-95. It’s one of ten locations across the country. The company told the Associated Press that they have “policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment” at company-owned and franchise locations.