SAN FRANCISCO, CA (July 25, 2005) --Businesses that hire young employees for the summer need to keep workplace relationships on ice, say attorneys with Littler Mendelson, the nation's largest employment and labor law firm. With a hormonally charged staff, often supervised by only slightly more mature bosses, hookups can happen faster than you can say, "Want fries with that?"
Midsummer can be a particularly dangerous time for employers and sexual harassment claims. Co-workers have gotten to know each other. They know to whom they are attracted, and they have had time to conveniently forget the employer's expectations stated during orientation.
"Young people may be less sensitive to the legal liabilities of their words and actions," said Paul Kennedy, a shareholder in Littler Mendelson's Washington D. C. office. "In school, 'playing around' might lead to detention. In the workplace, it can trigger complaints and even lawsuits."
The issue is a rising concern. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed four times as many lawsuits on behalf of teen workers during fiscal year 2004 than in 2001. The majority of those cases involved sexual harassment.
Kennedy suggests employers:
- Vigilantly train seasonal workers
- Cite examples of acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviors
- Pay particular attention to policies involving appropriate touching between coworkers
- Retrain or remind employees about company policies to ensure continued compliance.
First jobs and first loves carry high expectations, and for employers, potentially high costs. Proper fraternization guidelines and training can keep staff members happy, the cash register ringing and legal trouble at bay during this summer of love.
About Littler Mendelson
With more than 400 attorneys and 28 offices in major metropolitan areas nationwide, Littler Mendelson is the largest law firm in the United States devoted exclusively to representing management in employment, employee benefits and labor law matters. The firm's client base ranges from Fortune 500 companies to small-business owners. Established in 1942, the firm has litigated, mediated and negotiated some of the most influential cases and labor contracts in the nation's history. For more information, visit www.littler.com.